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Now imagine that we replace you and the rule book with a
computer that carries out exactly the same actions. That is, we
give it Chinese writing, and it gives us back a reply in Chinese,
all according to some predetermined computer program. The
question Searle asks is this: Does the computer understand what
it is doing? According to Searle, the answer is clearly no; if the
man in the room doesn™t understand Chinese, then it is not
possible that the computer understands it either. In short,
syntax (the logical operations carried out by the computer
program) is not the same as semantics (i.e., the kind of
understanding or meaning that occurs in actual minds). Again
we see the same pattern; an entry from the “A” list (syntax) is
compared with an entry from the “B” list (semantics), with a
discussion of why they are not the same.
This brief overview certainly does not do these examples
justice; they are thought provoking and full of twists and turns.
The point is, all of these rest on the foundation of the same
problem, and it is this foundation that we must identify and
attack. It does little or no good to compare individual items
from the “A” and “B” lists. What is needed is an explanation of
why everything on the “A” list is different from everything on
the “B” list. Anything less will be insufficient, and anything
more will be superfluous.
To understand this better, imagine that we want to prove
that a magnetic field and an electronic document (such as
created by a word processor) are not the same thing. As our
primary argument, we will use the method of reduction, and

Primary argument
A magnetic field is an Element-of-Reality;
An electronic document is Information;
Therefore, a magnetic field is not an electronic document.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

We can also use a secondary argument, based on showing
that the characteristics of the two things are not the same:

Secondary argument
A magnetic field has characteristics: P, Q, R, S, T.
An electronic document has characteristics: U, V, W, X, Y.
Therefore, a magnetic field is not an electronic document.

The point is, if the primary argument is valid, the secondary
argument is unneeded and contributes nothing. If one thing is
an Element-of-reality, and another thing is Information, we have
proven that the two things are different to the full extent of our
knowledge. In other words, the method of reduction has taken
the issue to its ultimate conclusion, and we can learn nothing
more by examining the details.
This leads us to the second of the major teachings of the
Inner Light Theory:

Major Teaching #2:
Definition of the Mind-body Problem
There is one and only one issue in the mind-body
problem: How can the mind be seen as Information
from the third-person perspective, but as one or more
Elements-of-reality from the first-person viewpoint?
This is the question we are seeking to answer, the heart
of what puzzles us about consciousness.
Furthermore, this also specifies what is required of a
solution to this puzzle. Solving the mind-body problem
is the same as explaining the discrepancy between the
first and third-person observations. No more is required,
and no less will suffice.
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 67

Previous Attempts at Solving the Problem
In this section we briefly look at previous approaches that
have been tried to solve the mind-body problem. These methods
fail for a variety of reasons. But in their failure we can learn a
great deal about the nature of the problem, and how a potential
solution must be evaluated. We will start by examining three
traditional approaches, materialism, idealism, and dualism.
These have been around for hundreds or thousands of years in
the philosophical literature. Next, we examine three methods
from modern day philosophy and science, epiphenomenalism,
emergence, and quantum mechanics.
Since the mind-body problem is a conflict between two
points of view, an obvious approach to solving the dilemma is
to assert that one of the points of view is wrong. This is the
approach taken by materialism,6 which maintains that the
third-person view of the mind is correct, and what is seen from
the first-person perspective is in error. This means that the
world of science is the only thing that we can believe, and what
we learn by introspection is flawed and not reliable. As
evidence, materialists point out that much of what introspection
tells us is obviously mistaken. For instance, when we look at
optical illusions we see something that is different from how the
world really is. As even stronger evidence of our introspective
fallibility, each of us spends several hours a day living in a
world that clearly does not exist, something that we call
dreaming. If we are mistaken about these kinds of things from
the first-person perspective, isn™t it possible that we are
mistaken about all of our introspective experiences?
The flip side of this is called idealism, claiming that the
first-person view is correct, and the third-person view is
mistaken. This means that scientific observation is an illusion;

6. Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett, 1992, Little, Brown
& Company, 511 pages. Popular, written for general audiences.
Uses scientific and philosophical arguments to convince us that our
introspective world is an illusion. This idea has offended many.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

there is no universe that exists independently of our thinking
about it. The only thing that has a real existence is our mind,
with its thoughts and ideas (hence the name, idealism).
Interestingly, dreams can also be cited as evidence for the
idealist position. If we can create our own private universe
when we are dreaming, how do we know that we aren™t creating
our waking universe in the same manner? This book in front of
you seems real, something that exists independently of your
mind. The problem is, tonight when you dream about this book
it will seem just as real, just as independent of your thoughts.
Of course, it won™t be. Idealists claim that the only thing we
know for certain is that our minds exist; all else is just baseless
Materialism and idealism assert that one of the two
perspectives is flawed. The problem is, most people thinking
about the problem don™t buy it; both of the views seem
inherently correct. Nothing seems more obvious to us than the
joint existence of the external world of science and the inner
world of our own mind. There is a saying in science,
popularized by the American astronomer Carl Sagan (1935-
1996): “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
The claims made by materialism and idealism are certainly
extraordinary; they contradict our common sense understanding
of reality at a fundamental level. Of course, this is not proof
that they are false. However, the evidence in support of these
positions is not compelling; in fact, it is almost nonexistent.
While both realism and idealism are logically possible, little or
nothing is given to make us believe that they are correct.
This leads us to dualism, which contends that both
viewpoints can be taken at face value; the universe seen from
the third-person perspective exists, as does the world of our
inner thoughts. The first and third-person viewpoints disagree
about the nature of the mind simply because they are looking at
two different things. The third-person sees mindless neural
activity in the brain, while the first-person is in direct contact
with some sort of elusive mental reality, something that is
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 69

beyond our physical world. Dualism is a straightforward
interpretation of what our senses tell us. We see an external
world; we see an internal world; they both seem to be real; and
they are not the same. In other words, the evidence for dualism
is our personal observation that the mind and body are separate
things. Given this, it is not surprising that dualism is the oldest
and most widespread belief about the nature of the mind. Most
religions are inherently based on the belief that humans have a
soul or spirit that can exist independently of their bodies, such
as after death.
Even though dualism is logically possible, it is deeply
inconsistent with the scientific evidence. For instance, if the
mind and brain are separate entities, why does damage to the
brain result in damage to the mind? Even more troubling, if a
person™s actions are controlled by an independent mind, why
does science observe the brain to be in control? While these
and similar arguments are not absolute proof, the scientific
evidence against dualism is more than compelling. As discussed
in Chapter 3, science sees a mind that is embodied in the
activity of the brain, and not a separate mental world.
In short, all three of the classical solutions are logically
possible, but are starved for evidence that they are true. Add to
this that realism and idealism conflict with our personal
observations, and that dualism is at odds with the scientific
evidence. Now let™s turn our attention to the three modern day
approaches to the mind-body problem and see if they are any
more convincing.
Epiphenomenalism7 is an attempt to modify dualism such
that it does not conflict with the scientific evidence. In this
solution, the brain controls all body activity, just as described in

7. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, David
J. Chalmers, 1997, Oxford University Press, 414 pages. Uses
philosophical arguments to emphasize just how difficult the mind-
body problem really is. Very popular; good technical philosophy.
Very questionable suggestion that epiphenomenalism is useful.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

medical textbooks. However, it is claimed that brain activity
alone cannot account for our first-person experiences; there
must be a separate “mind” to do this. The distinguishing feature
of epiphenomenalism is that the “mind” is an observer only, it
cannot affect the brain or body in any way. As you go about
your daily activities, your brain is in control of analyzing data
from your senses, making decisions, moving your body,
controlling your speech, and so on. In contrast, all your mind
can do is watch these events unfold, without having power to
change them in the slightest. Simply put, your mind is
connected to your eyes and ears, but not your arms, legs, or
tongue. In the jargon of the field, the mind is only an epi-
phenomenon, meaning it exists upon or beside the main event.
Epiphenomenalism is important because of how it fails.
While the three traditional methods are “possible but lacking in
evidence,” epiphenomenalism does not provide a logically
possible solution. The fundamental principle in this approach
is that the “mind” cannot affect behavior in any way; all of our
thoughts and actions are determined solely by the machine-like
activity of the brain. In fact, even if our minds did not exist, our
brains would carry out exactly the same day-to-day activities,
and the entire history of mankind would be unchanged.
Herein lies the problem. If epiphenomenalism is true, then
all of our words and writings about consciousness have nothing
meaningful to say about the issue. After all, every book and
article on consciousness would be exactly the same whether the
mind did or did not exist, and any characteristics that the mind
may or may not have. In short, accepting this as a solution to
the mind-body problem leads us to the conclusion that we
cannot think, speak or write about the problem in the first place.
This is the logical quagmire of epiphenomenalism; it says of
itself: ”I am meaningless.” Of course, our introspective
experience tells us that this entire line of reasoning is flawed.
If we know anything at all, we know that we can think, speak,
and write about the nature of our minds.
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 71

As previously discussed in Chapter 2, emergence 8-11 is one
of the basic strategies we use to understanding the world around
us. It works from the bottom-up, with complex entities being
created from more simple structures. Just as a candle flame
arises from the wick, wax and air, the human mind is viewed as
arising from the neural activity of the brain. Emergent entities,
such as candle flames and minds, are claimed to be more than
just the sum of their components; they have an existence of their
own. Emergence is very attractive to those studying neural
networks and artificial intelligence. In short, it contends that if
we look hard enough at brain activity, we will eventually find
the recipe that accounts for the first-person experience.
Emergence is a powerful technique, and its importance in
understanding the mind and brain should not be underestimated.
In fact, it is the primary way that we will solve the mysteries
regarding the structure and function of the brain, those problems
that involve simple ignorance. But that is not the task at hand;
our concern here is to resolve the paradox of the mind-body
problem. And to do this we must find an explanation of why the
third-person viewpoint sees the mind as Information, while the
first-person perspective sees Elements-of-reality.
Can emergence provide such an explanation? The answer
is no, it cannot. Emergence is a manipulation of Information,
placing it in a form that humans can more readily understand
and accept. But regardless of how Information is rearranged or
packaged, it is still just Information; emergence does not have

8. Stairway to the Mind, Alywn Scott, 1995, Copernicus Books, 229
pages. Emergence from the viewpoint of a mathematician.
9. The Race for Consciousness, John G. Taylor, 1999, MIT press, 380
pages. From the view of a physicist and neural network expert.
10. The Astonishing Hypothesis, Francis Crick, 1994, Touchstone,
317 pages. Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for discovering
the structure of DNA. Seeks consciousness through brain research.
11. A Universe of Consciousness, Gerald M. Edelman, 2000, Basic
books, 288 pages. Edelman received the Nobel Prize in 1972 for work
on the chemistry of antibodies. A neuroscience viewpoint.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

the power to create an Element-of-reality. This is inherent in


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