Open Journal of Philosophy
2011. Vol.1, No.1, 26-34
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojpp.2011.11005
The Mind-Body Problem Today
Gabri el Vacar iu
Department of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, Roumania.
Received May 31st, 2011; revised June 25th, 2011; accepted July 12th, 2011 .
An old philosophical problem, the mind-body problem, has not been yet solved by philosophers or scientists.
Even i f in cognitive n eurosci ence has been a stun ning develop ment in the last 20 years, t he mind-b ody problem
remained unsolved. Even if the majority of researchers in th is domain accept the identity theory from an onto-
logical viewpoint, many of them reject this position from an epistemological viewpoint. In this context, I con-
sider that it is quite possible the framework of this problem to be wrong and this is the main reason the problem
could not be solved. I offer an alternative, the epistemologically different world’s perspective, which replaces
the world or the universe. In this new context, the mind-body problem becomes a pseudo-problem.
Keywords: Cognitive Neuroscience, Mind, Brain, Epistemologically Different Worlds
In cognitive (neuro) science during the last few decades, as
in philosophy in the last centuries, the problem of the mind-
body (or mind-brain) phenomena is still open to debate. Para-
doxically, since Descartes nobody has proposed a viable alter-
native view of this problem. Researchers and thinkers have
offered some approaches, yet none has gained the assent of the
majority of thinkers. Even if most people consider that, onto-
logically, mind is a physical entity, many of them do not admit
the epistemological reduction of the mind to the brain. Thus, all
their efforts are towards “saving the phenomena” of the
“world”: in this case, the phenomena being the mind and the
brain. The mind-body problem remains a mystery. From this
paradoxical situation, we can draw the conclusion that maybe
something is wrong with the problem itself, i.e. with its frame-
work. As it is showed in Vacariu (2005, 2008, 2011) and Va-
cariu and Vacariu (2010), this wrong framework is the idea of
the “world” or the “universe” (or, as I called, the “uni-
corn-world”). We have always thought that we exist in a unique
world or universe. The unity of that world is the postulation of
a single o nt olo gical field in to which ever ythi ng h as b een p laced
(by “everything” we mean all entities, such as Gods, angels,
minds and bodies, planets, tables and microparticles). We can
identify this thinking paradigm, this unicorn-world, within the
majority of myths, theological doctrines, philosophical ap-
proaches, scientific theories, etc. Philosophers and scientists
have tried since antiquity to discover the foundations (its struc-
ture or its fundamental constituents) of this unicorn-world. The
existence of one unique “world” has never been in doubt, even
within the multiverse or many worlds approach. However,
within this framework, fundamental notions such as “levels”,
between “brain and mind”, emergence, supervenience (and
notions from phyiscis like “fundamental particles”, the rela-
tionships between “microparticles and macroparticles”, and the
“theor y of everythin g”) have remain ed obscu re. The aim of thi s
article is to show that a new framework, the epistemologically
different worlds (EDWs), seems to be a better alternative to the
mind-brain problem for philosophy and cognitive neuroscience.
The Mind-Bod y Pr o bl em in Cog nitiv e
Analyzing the mind-body problem there are three elements
that need to be taken, epistemologically, into account: the sub-
ject, as an observer of both the external world and of internal
world; the conditions of observation or conditions of “having
something” that include certain external and internal tools of
observation; and the observed object or entity. These elements
constitute a framework that is not new. Descartes emphasizes
the role of perception in identifying two different substances,
the mental and the physical. Nevertheless, I would replace the
notion of perception with “conditions of observation” for ex-
ternal entities and “conditions of having” for internal entities. In
this case regarding the relationship between the subject and the
object (external or internal), these notions are equivalent. Usu-
ally, when the notion of “perception” is used, we think, imme-
diately, of the sensorial system. However, from my viewpoint,
the term “conditions of observation for human beings” stands
for conceptual and/or sensorial mechanisms. From one side,
with different conditions of observation (that involve different
tools of observation), a human being can observe external enti-
ties with different structures. The external tools of observation
are those instruments or devices that enhance or expand our
perceptual mechanis ms and help us to percei ve ext ernal objects.
For instance, through perceptual mechanisms, it is possible to
observe different parts of a dissected brain. Moreover, expand-
ing th ese p ercept ual mechani s ms th rough different devi ces such
as PET or fMRI, certain aspects of neural activation patterns
can be observed. From the other side, from my viewpoint, the
subject does not perceive any mental states, as Descartes
thought (in our days, a remarkable case is Kosslyn (1992) with
his mental i magery). Instead , each human “has” cert ain i nternal
entities like mental representations and processes1. The fatal
1As we will see below (the principle of knowledge), it is better to conside
that the mental representations/processes are the “I”. The “I” has no spatial
dimension; each mental representation involves the entire “I”. So, in this
case, even the whole-
arts relationship is meaningless; we cannot claim that
the “I” has a particular mental representation
ecause it is impossible to
make a clear difference between the “I” and its mental re
consequence for Descartes was that he allocated the mind and
body (two ontologically different substances) to the same entity,
a human subject or a person2. As can be seen below, it is not
possible to locate two epistemologically different ontological
substances within the same world (as Descartes wanted). In this
case, the partition of elements must be preserved: new condi-
tions of observation require new entities within the new worlds,
but what kind of worlds? It is not about ontological, many,
multiverse or possible worlds, but about “epistemologically
different worlds” (EDWs). So, the first principle is this: “Under
different conditions of observation, the human subject observes
episte mo logicall y di f ferent worlds ”.
If this principle is adopted, it can be assumed that mind and
brain (or micro- and macro-particles) belong to epistemologi-
cally different worlds. Obviously, it does not mean that chang-
ing any condition of observation (or tool of observation), we
observe a new EW3. For instance, using different tools of ob-
servation (the eyes, fMRI and PET vs. introspection and mem-
ory), we can either observe external entities like parts of the
brain, patterns of neurons, and neurons or we have internal
mental rep resentations and processes. These intern al and exter-
nal entities belong to EDWs. The main mistake for the mind-
body (brain) problem has been the placement of the mind and
the brain (body) within the same world, the “unicorn-world” 4.
The existence of one unique “world” has never been in doubt
(even within the multiverse or many worlds approach). Phi-
losophers and scientists have tried since antiquity to discover
the foundations (its structure or its fundamental constituents) of
this unicorn-world. However, within this framework, funda-
mental notions such as “levels”, “fundamental particles”, the
relationships between “microparticles and macroparticles”,
between “brain and mind”, the “theory of everything”, and the
“essence of things” or “fundamental particles” have remained
At this point, I would like to bring the ontological dimension
into the discussion. “Conditions of observation” have an epis-
temological dimension, but the idea needs to be extended to the
ontological dimension. In order to address the ontological di-
mension, we replace “conditions of observation” with “condi-
tions of interaction”. These notions are equivalent in the sense
that every epistemological entity (micro or macro, neural pat-
tern or mental representation, human being or cell) “observes”
or interacts with other entities that belong to the same EW. In
this sense, it is very important to emphasize that the replace-
ment of th e “world” with EDWs ent ails th at we humans are no t
the only “observers”. Each epistemological world (EW) has its
own epistemological entities with its own properties and its
own epistemologically different interactions (or epistemologi-
cally different laws). However, with the exception of human
beings, there are no other entities that can observe/interact with
epistemologically different entities from other epistemologi-
cally different worlds. Each member of an EW exists only for
those entities that belong to that EW alone. I can now introduce
the principle of objective reality: “The determining epistemo-
logically different entities and their corresponding constitutive
epistemologically different interactions represent the episte-
mologically different worlds. Each epistemologically different
world has the same object ive reality.”
Mental representation and neural patterns of activation are
not the same entity described at different “levels” of descrip-
tion1. Without any ontological ground, such “levels” are empty
notions, while mental states and neural patterns of activation
are epistemologically different entities that belong to EDWs5. I
emphasize h ere that the notion of “levels” is co mpletel y differ-
ent then “EDWs”. Both “ontological levels” and “epistemo-
logical”/“description”/“analysis levels” are erroneous concepts
when applied to mind and brain or microparticles and macropar-
ticles! In the first case, we have dualism, in the second there are
empty concepts6. I emphasize here that, with EDWs, we have
the conversion of the ontology into hyperontology that is given
by the “constitutive epistemologically different entities”. The
world or the universe does not exist, it is just created by human
imagination. Instead of the “universe”, we have the “hyper-
verse”. Nevertheless, hyperverse is an abstract notion; it pre-
supposes a hyperbeing able to observe simultaneously the all
EDWs! For actual living beings, this perception is not possible.
Under a single set of observational conditions, a subject can
observe the constituents of only one EW. Following Bohr, and
considering that a subject cannot use two or more tools of ob-
servation at the same time, I can postulate the next principle –
the principle of complementarity: “As human attention is a
serial process, the human subject cannot simultaneously ob-
serve EDWs.”
Regarding the “correlation” (that is, from the EDWs perspec-
tive, “correspondence”) between a mental state and a neural
state there have been several stages in the development of the
cognitive neuroscience. I will try to grasp this evolution by
analyzing a particular case such as a human subject conscious
of seeing, for in stance, a red ob ject. If we know that this act ion
produ ces a mental state t o the subj ect (percept ion), the qu estion
is which is its correspondence within the brain of this subject?
In cognitive (neuro) science, three elements have been taken
into account for this problem during the last decades.
(a) The activation of a limited number of neural patterns
In th e beginni ng, usi ng fMRI an d PET, p eople from th e cog-
nitive neuroscience believed that a perceptual mental state
stimulated by an external object was identical with a quite small
2Fowler emphasizes that Descartes, preserving a traditional relation betwee
doctrine and philosophy, rejects Regius’ alternative of the “double-truth
option”, i.e., of separating the truth of revelation from the truth of reason.
Reaching the stage in which he was aware that the unity between mind and
body could not be proved scientifically or philosophically, Descartes pro-
nounced, “the union of mind and body is a reality which escapes philoso-
phica l discourse.” (Desca rtes to Elisabeth, 21 May 1643 in Fowler, p. 385).
3In order the subject to observe a new EW, it is necessary a new condition o
observation to pass an epistemologic-ontological threshold in relationship
with the old condition of observation. (About this threshold and organiza-
tional threshold, see Vacariu, 2008).
4Another example is the pair table-microparticles. A table (or a planet) is no
composed of or is not identical with some microparticles. The table and the
microparticles belong to EDWs. The relationship between whole-
arts is
better underst ood throu gh the EDWs perspecti ve (Vacariu, 2008 ; Vacariu &
Vacariu, 201 0).
5The EDWs perspective is beyond any kind of relativism. The distinction
etween the epistemological and ontological dimensions offers me the
possibility of avoiding the classic dilemma of relativism. This smooth dis-
tinction shows that the EDWs perspective is not based on a circular argu-
ment. Ep istemologi cally, th e human subject obs erves and defin es the EDWs
and its entities in terms of observation but, ontologically, they exist without
these processes of observati on.
6Explaining the difference between objective validity and objective reality i
Kant’s philosophy, Hanna comments on A239/B298-9 and A248/B305,
writing that “empty concepts cannot be meaningfully applied by us either to
noumenal objects or to objects of our sensory intuition, and in that sense
they are ‘impossible’—that is, impossible to use (Hanna, 2001: pp. 90-91).”
neural pattern. They could localized a neural state responsible
for a perception of that red object. For instance, Georgopolous
shows that we can predict the direction of a monkey’s arm
movement just before grasping an object by observing the neu-
ral patterns activated at that moment. Each neuron “votes” for
certain direction and the resulting vector of the neuronal popu-
lation determines the direction of the arm’s movement (Geor-
gopolous, 1988). Rolls points out that “if we know the average
firing rate o f each cell i n a popu lation to each stimulu s, then on
any single trial we can guess the stimulus that was present by
taking in to accoun t the response of all the cel ls” (Rolls, 20 01: p.
157). However, in humans even the perceptual awareness is a
complex process that implies feed-forward and feedback pro-
jections between early visual processing and higher-level neu-
rons. Moreover, probable there are other neural pattern acti-
vated in such processes, but actual apparatus of scanning (fMRI,
PET, MEG) are not able to grasp them.
In the next stage of the evolution of cognitive neuroscience,
one could notice that the red object (with red color, particular
texture, etc.) generated the activation of certain neural patterns
from different brain areas. The problem (still unsolved) has
been the “binding problem”: the “correlation” between a red
object with several features and the activation of some neural
patterns from different areas of the brain. What physical ele-
ments and processes correspond to the mental unity of those
features? Obviously, the scientific binding problem has mir-
rored the philosophical mind-body problem. Among the most
important approaches for this problem, we recall only two: the
“feature in tegrati on theo ry” elaborat ed b y Treis man in th e ‘80 s7
(and later developed) (Treisman, 1998, 1999) and the “bind-
ing-by-synchrony”. I shall only analyze the latter.
Milner (1974) and Von Der Malsburg (1981) proposed this
alternative to the binding problem, while Singer (2007) elabo-
rated certain experimental researches for supporting this ap-
proach. Singer considers that the brain is a system with many
operations in parallel, without any center of coordination, as the
computationalists claim (Fodor, Pylyshyn). Although this al-
ternative is accepted, it still raises some questions. How is it
possible for such computations/processes to take place simul-
taneously in different brain areas in relationship with the co-
herent perception and action of the human subject? How the
signals from sensorial structures are selected and coordinated
with the execu tive ones and how is the i nformation on features
binding encoded? The proponents of the binding-by-synchrony
think that the coordination mechanism is represented by the
synchronized activity of different neural patterns (usually the
frequency is 40 Hz). This synchronization is correlated with the
unity of mental features in a single entity, the object. Certain
internal interactions between the neurons produce this synchro-
nization. Neither Singer nor other author s offer an answer to th e
question “what do these interactions mean?” It seems that this
synchronization is a selective reply for attention and con-
sciousness. Singer believes that recent empirical researches
prove that synchronization at a large cortical scale (through
beta/gamma frequency) is necessary for the sensorial informa-
tion to reach perceptual consciousness8 (Singer, 2007). How-
ever, according to Yi Dong et al. (based o n very recent experi-
ments on visual mechanism of monkeys) the synchronization
does not depend on the binding problem but only on the selec-
tivity of finding the “border-ownership” of an object (Yi et al.,
2008). In other words, the synchronization process takes place
for the detection of an object’s border and not for the binding of
the object’s features. Evidently, at the time being, we cannot
have a final answer to the binding problem. However, more and
more experiments using fMRI and PET run in the last years
show that a pyramid of neural patterns corresponds even to a
simple mental function.
(b) The pyramid of neural pattern with different grades of
Here we need to introduce some notions from psychology
that will be useful in the following chapters. We shall take all
these notions from Mandler (1998). She synthesizes these di-
chotomies in pair-notions: declarative-procedural, accessible-
inaccessible, conscious-unconscious, conceptual-sensorimotor,
symbolic-subsymbolic, and explicit-implicit (Mandler, 1998: p.
265). These dichotomies are interconnected and partially over-
lap without being identical (Mandler, 1998: p. 265). The de-
clarative-procedural distinction is based on whether or not the
knowled ge in q uestion is accessibl e or inacces sible to co nscious -
ness. Procedural knowledge remains inaccessible to conscious-
ness, sin ce we have access on ly to the effects o f pro cedur es, not
to pr oced ur es th emsel ve s. Th e fac t t hat we use d e clar ati ve kn ow-
ledge for gaining proced ural knowled ge do e s not entail our hav-
ing accessibility to procedural knowledge. We are never aware
of the details of procedural knowledge by means of which our
habituation can increase the performance of our body for some
actions . Mandler main ta i ns that w e c an no t c o nc eptualize and t hi nk
explicitly about sensorimotor information. This, of course, does
not mean that a person is not aware of sensations (qualia) in-
Volved in pe rc e ptua l a nd motor lear ning (Ma ndle r , 1998: p. 2 66).
In this context, what does it mean that mental representations
and processes belong to the same subject? From my viewpoint,
the answer is th at the con scious states are “correlated” with the
“most activated” neural patterns, while the unconscious states
correspond to less activate neural patterns. Baars was among
the firsts who initiated the research on the relationship between
conscious and unconscious states, and he proposed the concept
of the “global workspace theory”9 (Baars, 2002, 2007). This
global workspace represents in fact the consciousness. There
are different mental/psychological functions acting in this
workspace. Thus, consciousness is an integrative function
meaning that it is a “global workspace of integration”. (Baars,
2002) These mental functions are correlated with the “inde-
8Another alternative to the binding problem is that “the perceptual unity is
an illusion, with only coordinated behavioral output being in need of an
explanation” (Sevush,2006) However, both approaches have problems.
“The evidence for temporal synchrony as a basis for binding has been criti-
cized on both technical and conceptual grounds, while the argument that
perceptual unity is an illusion has been challenged both empirically and
philosophically.” (Sevush,2006) From my viewpoint, the question is this
“perceptual unity” is an illusion for whom? For the “I” that is an illusion,
too? Then, we have to return Hume’s idea: the self does not exist, it is just
an ama lgam of b i ologic al e nti ties . In searc hin g for th e fund amenta l p arti cles
we have extended this idea to all entities that we know in the “universe”. So,
the conclusion of such Humean framework could be: “Everything that we
know (including us) is appearan ce !” Could we live in such fram ework?
9Baars specifies other important people from the cognitive science who
adopted this “global workspace” theory proposed by him.
7“For expe rimental psycholog y resear chers, two papers on bind ing by Anne
Treisman in the 1980s set the course for nearly two decades. Treisman’s
‘feature integration theory’ (FIT) became not only the most influential
theory of binding, but also the most influential theory of attention (Hol-
combe, 2009).”
pendent” functions of the brain10 Baars emphasizes that the
conscious processes are the product of unconscious processes
(Baars & Franklin, 2007). Thus, cognition is the result of the
actions of unconscious processes. For instance, the working
memory is achieved through special distributed systems (lan-
guage components, long term memory, space and temporal
framework, etc.) selected by the consciousness. These compo-
nents are correlated with the widely distributed cortical and
subcortical structures (Baars & Franklin, 2007). The conscious
contents are guided or constrained by unconscious contents: the
contents of goals, perceptions, conceptual or cultural. For in-
stance, the sentences of words that we think or pronounce are
the results of the unconscious processes that form them.
Kanwisher proposes a similar approach (if neural representa-
tion is more active then the mental representation correlated
with it is consciously active). Kanwisher takes up an idea in-
troduced by Green and Swets according to which perceptual
awareness is not “an all-or-none affair, but a graded phenome-
non which admits many shades of grey” (Kanwisher, 2001: p.
103). Treisman goes further and claims that attention, i.e. the
feed-back projections from high levels to low level of vision, is
inVol ved even for bindin g processes11 (Treisman, 1998, 1999).
For Edelman and Tononi, consciousness is a process that in-
Volves groups that are widely distributed in the brain (Edelman
& Tononi, 2000). Consciousness mainly presupposes the
re-entrant interactions among these groups which are the most
important feature of the brain: “reentry leads to the synchroni-
zation of the activity of neural groups in different brain maps,
binding them into circuits capable of temporally coherent out-
put” (p. 85). Every consciousness state “requires the activation
and deactivation of many regions of the brain” (Edelman &
Tononi, 2000: p. 140). Crick and Koch argue that the neural
correlates of consciousness at one time engage one part of the
cells but their firing influences other neurons, the so-called
“penumbra”, which makes a contribution to the process of un-
derstanding (Crick & Koch, 2003). In their turn, Llinás and
Parre indicate that the “fact that all frequencies are not equal
probably determines that certain resonant frequencies will be
observed preferentially” (Llinás & Parre, 1996). In the same
line, “The selective property of attention is presumed to be
expressed by a positive difference between the activity levels in
columns that code for the target and the activity levels in
neighboring columns that code for other (distracting) objects
(LaBerge, 2002).” To grasp the mind-brain relationship, Mer-
zenich and deCharms introduce the notion of representational
perceptual constancy. Constant perceptual representations
emerge from the neural level where the pattern of activity of the
ensemble of neurons is permanently changing and moving
(Merzenich & deCharms, 1996). Nevertheless, the authors do
not explain the origin of this constancy.
The research made with fMRI, PET and MEG in the last
years seems to support Baars’s approach. For instance, Bartels
confirms that large parts of the brain interact for mental proc-
esses like attention, binding and segmentation (Bartels, 2009).
In other words, a neuronal pyramid is required for the accom-
plishment of relatively simple mental processes. It seems more
and more obvious that any cognitive function activates an entire
“neuronal pyramid” but it remains unclear the production of
this mechanism and the correlation between a mental function
and a neuronal pyramid. The progress of research on this direc-
tion suggests that the brain activity is much more complex than
we thought in the past. Fodor’s modularity, supported by the
experiments made by his collaborator Pylyshyn (1999, 2003,
2006), combats Baars’ global work space. Modularity means
that certai n mental parts are spec ialized in certai n mental proc-
esses: cogni tion, p erception, motor, et c. Some researchers from
the cognitive neuroscience believe that these modules are cor-
related with certain specialized neural areas. There are not
many empirical experiments that support the modularity. How-
ever, we mention a recent research on modularity. Using the
transmagentic stimulation, Downing tries to prove the visual
modular system. Three areas of the visual cortex would play a
causal role in the perception of human face, body and various
objects (Downing, 2009). But, to understand how a human
subject perceives a human face or an object, we have to solve
the binding problem. Moreover, such processes involve the
consciousness. Thus, the problem becomes more and more
complicated: there are complex relationships between the low
level (primary visual areas) and the high level (cognition).
There are many experiments against the modularity. For in-
stance, there are no constant “correlations” with a particular
neuronal area (Haynes, 2009) for a specific feature—the color
of an ob ject. The rol e of the co n text of colo r an d th e exp erience
of human subject in the perception of colors has been ac-
knowledged long time ago. Robertson indicates that a parietal
area is essential for the conjunction of certain surface features
of an object (Robertson, 2003). But he emphasizes that the
binding problem requires other brain areas and processes. (For
instance, the high level areas correlated with the attention and
the synchronization process.)
(c) The counterpa rt: the brain and the body
Llinas and Pare write that perception at a given moment is
represented by a small percentage of coherently oscillating
cellular elements over the whole thalamocortical system. The
rest of the thalamocortical system, being silent to such coher-
ence, may in fact represent the necessary counterpart to the
temporal pattern of neuronal activity that we recognise indi-
vidually as cognition (Llinás & Pare, 1996).
According to these two researchers, we have to add the
whole neuronal pyramid with different grades of activation and
the rest of the brain to the most activated neural pattern of ac-
tivation, in order to explain the cognition through the neural
areas,. In Baars’ paradigm of thinking, I may claim that this
“rest of the brain” would correspond to the unconscious/im-
plicit knowledge.
The great majority of researchers from the cognitive science
try to explain the cognition (and human behavior) only through
the brain processes. However, there are researchers who con-
sider th e brain and the body as a uni tary system, especiall y, the
proponents of the dynamical system approach, situated cogni-
tion, and of the complexity theory. They introduced notions like
“embodied” cognition: cognition is the result of the continuous
interactions between brain, body and environment. There is
10The notion of “independence” means that different areas of the brain are
resp onsible for ce rtain menta l functions.
11The binding problem would correspond—from one viewpoint—to the
Kantian notion of synthesis. From EDWs perspective, it is meaningless to
search for the binding problem of neural patterns of activation or what the
self means from a neural or third-view point. Again, it is like an electro
interacts with the table that composed it, i.e., a mixture between EDWs. We
have to be aware that the pair “electron-table” is external to a subject, while
the pai r mind-body involves one ext ernal and one “internal” ele ment.
more or less a theoretical direction of research. Lungarella and
Sporns (2006) made an experiment on robotics trying to corre-
late the intelligence (artificial) with the sensormotor ability and
the environment. Sporn was very surprised by these results12. It
follows that a particular part—the activated pyramidal patterns
of neurons—has a counterpart that is the rest of the brain and
body. From this perspective, a particular understanding on hu-
man subjectivity or human experience is given by the part-
counterpart principle: “In physical terms, the part-counterpart
relation corresponds to the I or the human subjectiv-
ity/experience.” We can explain the “I” or the hu man subj ectiv-
ity/experience (or “What is it like to see a red object”) in
physical terms only through the part-counterpart relation. Using
external tools it is practically impossible to grasp human sub-
jectivity as a whole. Human subjectivity is a universal property
of the human species, that is, every human has the feeling of
her self, as an individual. However, we cannot perceive this
property using external tools. In this context, I emphasize that
we cannot make a real difference between the mind and the
subjectivity. Perceptions and computations are considered as
functions of the mind. Obviously, such functions belong to the
“I”. In fact, there is no function of the mind that does not be-
long to the “I”. From my viewpoint, the distinction between the
mind and the “I” is a pseudo-distinction. As we will see below,
the “I” (or the mind) is an EW, and this is the main reason we
cannot make a distinction between the “I” and the mind.
Therefore, the mind an d the “I” are equival ent in this article.
The Human Subjectivity (The “I”)
In our days the notion of human subjectivity (the mind) is
very problematic. The question “Does the ‘I’ exist?” still has no
definitive answer. In contradiction with the EDWs perspective,
there is the framework of cognitive (neuro) science in which the
researchers try to find the “correlations” between the self and
certain neural patterns of activation. For instance, Damasio and
Damasio define t he sel f in neural terms: “W e see the sel f as the
neural structure and neurobiological states that help us know,
without the help of inferences based on language, that the im-
ages we perceive are ours rather then somebody else’s”.)
(Damasio & Damasio, 1996: p. 22) The subjective state of per-
ceiving an object presupposes different neural structures that
represent th e image o f that ob ject , t he image of the sel f, and th e
connection between the self and the image of that object, i.e.,
the convergen ce zone (p . 25). The “self” means “a co llectio n of
images about the most invariant aspects of our organism and its
interactions” (p. 23). Offering various experiments from cogni-
tive neuroscience, Macrae et al. try to explain self-knowledge
from a neuroscientific viewpoint. They suggest that the medial
prefrontal cortex seems to be essential in self-referential and
mentalizing processing and social-cognitive functioning (simu-
lation of other minds, the use and representation of social
knowledge, and moral reasoning) (Macrae, 2004: p. 1073).
Klein mentions various papers written by different authors that
support the idea that “self-descriptiveness produced activation
of cortical area asso ciated with semantic memory retri eval (left
frontal regions) but not those associated with episodic memory
retrieval (right frontal regions)” (Klein, 2004: p. 1080). How-
ever, he has a footnote in which he mentions that, even if there
are various studies that support the conclusion that the self can
be located in the left cerebral hemisphere (that presupposes the
doctrine of modularity embraced by cognitive science), neuro-
logical l y, declarative knowledge is distribu ted widely across the
cortex (p. 1086). This footnote cautions against the location of
the self or even self-knowledge in an isolated neural area.
From the EDWs perspective, it is meaningless to check for
the correlation between the self and certain neural patterns. If
we define the existence of all other epistemologically different
entities with the help of their interactions, we can say that the
“I” does not interact with anything else. The “I” cannot “ob-
serve” itself as a complete entity (in Cartesian terms13). More-
over, nobody can observe an “I” (in psychological form or the
first-person ontology). Does this means that the “I” does not
exist? In order to define the existence of human subjectivity, we
have to change the notion of the existence. Through the interac-
tion of the brain and the body with the environment, certain
patterns of neurons are activated. These brain-body-environ-
ment reciprocal causal interactions correspond to sensations
and perceptions. Certain implicit knowledge is the “I” or to the
mind-EW. Ho wever, the mind has no place in t he “world ”, it is
just an internal EW or the “I”. Because brain, body and envi-
ronment are in a continuous reciprocal interaction, the neural
states and processes are undergoing continuous change. I men-
tion that the implicit knowledge is the results of the develop-
ment and learning processes throughout the life of each indi-
vidual. This knowledge corresponds to biological mechanisms
that are the results of the evolution of our species and the de-
velopment of each organism in the continuous reciprocal inter-
actions between brain, body and environment. Such physical
interactions correspond to certain mental states and processes.
Due to the evolution of species14 and development of each in-
dividual, the “I” is feelings, desires, etc., I consider the feelings
and desire to be knowledge as well. The mental representations
and processes (that only correspond to parts of the brain and
body) are the “I”. Now we can introduce the last principle.
Human subjectivity or the self in psychological terms is given
by the principle of knowledge: “The I is knowledge.” I em-
phasize that, in this case, the content of knowledge has at least
four elemen ts that overlap:
1) All kno wledge (d eclarati ve and procedu ral, accessib le and
inaccessible, conscious and unconscious, conceptual and sen-
sorimotor, symbolic and subsymbolic, and explicit and implicit
2) All kinds of memory.
3) Descartes’ fun ctions. For him, the “I”, as a thinki ng thing,
has different functions (or properties) such as doubting, under-
standing, denying, willing, sensing and imagining (Descartes,
1974: p. 82) .
12“Really, this study has opened my eyes. I’m a neuroscientist so much o
my work is primarily concerned with how the brain works. But brain and
ody are never really separate, and clearly they have evolved together. The
rain and th e body sh ould not be looke d at as separa te thin gs when one talks
about information processing, learning and cognition—they form a unit.
This holds a lot of meaning to me bi ologically (Sporns, 2006).” Mor eover, i
his book from 2 008, Fodor rec ognizes th at his m istake was he d id not app ly
the LOT to perception and action (Fod or, 2008).
4) Self-knowledge and the capacity (possibility) of knowl-
13About Descartes’ clear, distinct, and complete perceptions, see Vacariu,
14We have to remember Konrad Lorenz who extends Kant’s view in ex-
laining that the fit between an organism and its environment is due to
evolution (Lorenz, 1941).
edge for manipulating itself. This capacity inVolves, among
other features, Fodor’s characteristics of the mind: composi-
tionality, systematicity and productivity (Fodor & Pylyshyn,
All these elements of knowledge correspond to the biological
elements of a human subject. For each self, the elements of
knowledge superimpose during the process of development and
the adu lt period to create an d change the “I”. As a paradox, t he
“I” is both indivisible and formed by mental states and proc-
esses. This indivisibility is equal to the self unity and it repre-
sents th e possibi lity of the “I” to acces s directly (in p arallel and
not in serial) any parts of it, i.e., any parts of the knowledge.
The “I” is the knowledge, i.e., all its mental states and proc-
esses, havin g this ab ility to access p arts of itself. The “I” is the
knowledge that can access itself. It is the knowledge acquired
by any human subject during the whole life. We are able to
survive in a “standard environment” because of this implicit
knowledge furnishes the stable status of the “I” that inVolves
the “representational perceptual constancy” (Merzenich &
deCharms, 1996; Vacariu, 2005, 2008).
Libet, Llinas and Frith’s Approaches and the
EDWs Perspective
In our days, some alternatives from cognitive neuroscience
are constructed within an anti-reductionism framework. Many
people accep t the identity theory15 even if some of them use the
notion of “correlation” which indicates not a “strict identity”
between the mental states and the neural patterns of activity. I
would like to analyze three approaches of cognitive (neuro)
science (Libet, Llinas, & Frith) that are, in some aspects, quite
close to the EDWs perspective. In fact, I want to show that
some assumptions of these approaches would fit better within
the EDWs framework than the unicorn-world framework, other
assumptions being necessary to be discarded.
I started with Libet’s “delay” problem presented by Frith
(here, in a short form) and then I analyze Libet’s recen t notion,
the “cerebral mental field” (Libet, 2006). Libet’s experiment is
related to Helmholtz’s “unconscious inferences” (Frith, 2007:
pp. 66-68). The subject had to lift her finger whenever she “felt
doing so” but at the same time she had to tell Libet “when they
‘had the urge’ to lift their finger” (Frith, 2007: p. 66). The brain
activity was measured with EEG devices in both actions. The
urge to lift occurs about 200 msec before the finger is lifted.
However, the most important thing is that the changes in the
brain activity occur about 500 msec before the finger is lifted.
So brain activity indicating that the volunteer was about to
lift a finger occurred about 300 msec before that volunteer re-
ported having the urge to lift his or her finger. The implication
of this observation is that, by measuring your brain activity, I
can know that you’re going to have the urge to lift your finger
before you know it yourself (Frith, 2007: p. 66).
Frith comprehends that “by measuring your brain activity, I
can know that you’re going to have the urge to lift your finger
before you know it yourself” (p. 66) and thus we believe “we
are making a choice when, in fact, our brain has already made
the choice. Our experience of making a choice at that moment
is therefore an illusion. (p. 67)” The conclusion is that mental
events do not take place at the same time with the brain proc-
esses. How can we interpret Libet’s experiment from an EDWs
perspective? Firstly, it confirms the EDWs principle: the mind
and the brain belong to EDWs. Moreover, the will of a human
subject is a mental process that involves the entire subjectivity
of the subj ect t hat is the “I”. So, we have to fol lo w the princip le
of knowledge: the “I” is the knowledge. Even when we follow
Libet’s indication (the subject has to tell Libet when she feels to
move her finger), there are other brain areas that become more
or less active. Probably, the subject needs large parts of the brain
to feel the urge to lift her finger even if the activation of these
areas can not be recorded by the actual devices. Obviously,
using such measuring instruments for the brain activity, we can-
not detect all parts just because the entire “I” is involved. Ac-
cording to the principle of part-counterpart, the “I” corresponds
to the brain and body, so we have to insert the whole brain and
body into the equation. I believe that we should use the EDWs
framework for a better interpretation of Libet’s experiment.
Few years ago, Libet introduces another concept, the “cere-
bral mental field” (CMF), to solve his “delay problem” (Libet,
2006). The CMF is produced by the activity of many neurons.
He believes that certain experiments can prove the existence of
the CMF. In the analysis of Libet’s approach from our perspec-
tive, we want to show that it misses the framework of the
EDWs. When analyzing the delay n ecessary to pro duce certain
cerebral neuronal events in relationship with some sensory
awareness, Libet concludes that “unconscious cerebral proc-
esses precede a subjective sensory experience” (Libet, 2006).
This means that all mental states and processes “begin uncon-
sciously”, even if these states become conscious or not. Libet
strongly underlines that the “features of the CMF can be corre-
lated with brain events, even though the CMF is non-physical,
by study of subjective reports from the human subject.” In his
terms, the “subjective experience (the conscious mind) appears
to be a non-physical phenomenon” (Libet, 2006: p. 322)! I be-
lieve that, in his attempt to avoid Descartes’ dualism16, Libet
adopts a position very similar to Searle (1992)17. Only within
this framework, the unicorn-world, they can build their ap-
proach and reject all the other approaches18. When rejecting
15A leader on this trend is Bechtel with his mental mechanisms, decomposi-
tion and localization (philosophy of cognitive neuroscience) (Becthel,2009,
2008). He cla ims that , usin g th re e method s (neur oima ges with fMRI, br ain’ s
lesions and cell’s recording), people from cognitive neuroscience can de-
compose the mental mechanisms into components parts and functions and
then each function is localized within the brain. A leader on the anti- reduc-
tionism position (or localization) is Uttal (cognitive neuroscience). Using
lesions and image techniques, Uttal considers that we cannot decompose a
cognitive system in its components (which cannot be localized) because o
the intrinsic inaccessibility of mental processes (Uttal, 2003; Becthel, 2002).
(For the debate between these two positions, see Vacariu, 2011) (Against
Bechtel’s mechanisms and localization, see also Chemero and Silbernstein
2007.) I mention that , in philos ophy of mind, the main trend for the last 20 -
30 years has been an anti-reductionism, some philosophers or even re-
searchers from cognitive scien ce sustain a di fference between the mind and
the brain, even if both elements are physical matter. For instance, Searle
believes that the mind is produced by the brain (Searle, 1992) and Grush
(with his emulator theory of representation) assumes certain Cartesian as-
sumptions. (Grush, 2003, 2004).
16“The CMF is not a Cartesian dualistic phenomenon; it is not separable
from the brain.” ( Libe t, 2 0 06: p. 32 4).
17Mainly, S earle consid ers that th e brain produces the mind (Searle , 1992).
18The title of Libet’s paper is “Reflections on the interaction of the mind and
rain”. Obviously, he rejects the identity theory: “Simply stating that some
(unknown) configuration of neuronal activities equals consciousness (sub-
ective exp erience) avoids or be gs the problem (Libet, 2006 : p. 322).” Nev-
ertheless, only within the unicorn-world, we can presuppose the interactions
betw e en the m i nd an d t he brain!
Umezawa’s “mental field model” that is related to the quantum
mechanics (with Bohr and Bohm), Libet asks:
“But this does not solve the problem of how the neuronal ac-
tivity aspect can also be directly related to the subjective,
non-physical aspect of mind. If subjective experience is a
non-physical phenomenon, what is it? It should be added that
subjective experience also involves an integrative property.
That is, although billions of individual nerve cell actions give
rise to conscious awareness, the actual experience is a unified
one. For example, if you look at any object in your external
visual field, it appears as a smoothly organized structure, even
though we know that several separate areas in the cerebral vis-
ual system are contributing colors, spatial configurations, mo-
tion, and meaning (interpretation) to it. This has been termed
the ‘‘binding’’ phenomenon (Libet, 2006: pp. 323-324).”
Evidently, within the same world, we cannot explain the re-
lationship between mind, “billions of individual nerve cells”,
the unity of “consciousness awareness” and the binding prob-
lem. Based on his experiments, Libet mentions a “strange ex-
perimentally demonstrated” feature of the CMF:
“Awareness of a sensory event does not appear until up to
0.5 s after the initial response of the sensory cortex to the arri-
val of the fastest projection to the cerebral cortex (Libet et al.,
1991). (…) But, in spite of the actual delay, the individual per-
ceives the normal sensory stimulus without any appreciable
delay beyond that for conduction time of the sensory projection
from periphery to sensory cortex (Libet et al., 1979). A further
experiment showed that up to 0.5 s of neural activity had to
occur for the actual awareness to appear (Libet et al., 1979).
Somehow, the subjective time of the actually delayed aware-
ness appears without delay.”
I believe that this famous “delay” co uld be easier interpreted
through the EDWs perspective. The individual perceives the
sensory stimulus without delay because of the “I”‘s unity. The
changes in the brain activity occur about 500 msec before the
action of the b ody and th e awareness o f the su bject just b ecau se
the “I” is an EW and t he b ody (brain) an d mind are EDWs. Th e
“referral in sp ace” gra sp s ex actl y th e exist en ce of th e t wo EDWs.
The CMR is nothing else but the “I” (an EW) that corresponds
to (but not produced by) the brain-body-EW. We may conclude
that Libet constructs his approach by unifying the enti-
ties/processes that belong to the two EDWs. From a EDWs
perspective, we, the human beings (as living entities, in general)
could not survive in any environment without this continuity.
However, this continuity is just the “I” that is the implicit
knowledge and has a unity. Without these two elements, we
would be like a sophisticated computer without sentience. The
implicit knowledge is the “mortar of higher intelligence”. Each
thought is part of the “I”, so the “I” (or its implicit knowledge)
is the “foundation of interconnected ideas and concepts”; the
“I” is the transcendental fra mework of our thoughts.19
Within the context of the EDWs perspective, let me analyze
Llinás’s approach to the relationship between the brain, body
and the external world. More precisely, how corporeal move-
ments take place and what is the relation between movement
and thinking in Llinás’ opinion (Llinás, 2001). As a monist
(“mind and brain are inseparable”), Llinás defines the mind as
one of the “global functional state generated by brain” (Llinás
2001, p. 1). In these expressions, the words “inseparable” and
“generated” create problems. “Generated” is quite similar to
Searle’s notion that reflects the relationship between the mind
and the brain (Searle, 1992). However, this framework repre-
sents a confusion between two EWDs. From the EDWs per-
spective, t he mind and the br ain are not “in separab le”, as Llin as
claims, but they correspond to one another. Therefore, brain
does not “generate” mind at all! It is interesting for me that
Llinás incl udes all “sensorimoto r images” and “sel f-awarenes s”
inside the mind (Llinás, 2001: p. 1). In his book, Llinás argues
that the mind “has eVolved as a goal-oriented device that im-
plements predictive/intentional interactions between a living
organism and its environment”, considering the prediction as
the most important mental function (p. 3). Even more interest-
ing it is Llinás’ assertion that the mind and the movement of
body are strongly related being in fact different parts of the
same process. From my viewpoint, Llinás is almost saying that
the mind and the body are EDWs! We have to remember,
however, that he works within the unicorn world. Only the
brain moves the body. Evidently, the mind incorporates all the
sensorial and motor images because they simply correspond to
the real interactions between the brain, body and the external
For Llinás, due to the evolution, the multicellular organisms
develop brains necessary for the property of “motricity (p. 15).”
Motricity presupposes prediction, and this is one of the most
important characteristic of the brain. Prediction and motricity
are essential to survive, being the result of an evolution based
on trials and errors (Llinás, 2001). Moreover, predictions need
to be centralized: “self is the centralization of prediction (p.
23).” From the EDWs perspective, predictions are possible only
because of the existence of the self that is knowledge (more
exactly, the implicit knowledge) acquired by a person during
the entire life. According to Llinas, the “external world and the
internal world have different coordinate system reference
frames”, even if the properties of those two worlds have to be
“homomorphic” (Llinás, 2001: p. 64). In the unicorn-world, he
is obviously aware of “the differences in coordinate system
reference frames between the external and internal worlds and
how continuity between perception and execution may/must
exist (p. 65).”
Interestingly, we can notice that Llinás is aware about the
compulsory unity between “disparate” sensorial inputs, memo-
ries and thoughts (that involves the binding problem). For this
unity, Llinás bets o n t he “temporal coherence”, the synchronous
binding of the activity of individual cells, the neurons (for in-
stance, Llinás, 2001: p. 121). Based on different experimental
studies, Llinás indicates the 40-Hz coherent neuronal activity
for the temporal coherence. The synchronization makes the
transfer from the microscopic to the macroscopic landscape.
Nevertheless, we saw above that synchronization is a problem-
atic alternative. In the last paragraph, we have again the prob-
lematic notions like “generate” or “binding”. These notions
presuppose both types of entity (brain and cognition) within the
same world. It seems that th is is again a mistake. Llinás e mpha-
sizes that the self is just the “temporally coherent event that
binds, in the time domain, the fractured components of external
19From Kant’s transcendentalism philosophy, the framework of our thought
is the transcendental apperception that is a priori to any thought. From a
EDWs perspective, the “I” is an EW and our thoughts are entities and proc-
esses of this EW. Therefore, the “I” is transcendental in relationship with the
thoughts. (F o r more deta il, see Vacar i u, 200 8) .
and internal reality into a single construct (…) 20 (Lli ná s , 20 01 :
p. 120, his italics).” The self is the centralization of prediction
and this centralization is an “abstraction we call the ‘self.’ (p.
127)” We really do not understand what “abstraction” means.
We can only give a meaning to this word if we equalize “ab-
straction” with an EW! Moreover, “qualia must arise from,
fundamentally, properties of single cells, (…) amplified by the
organization of circuits specialized in sensory functions. Qualia
are that part of self that relates (back) to us! It is a fantastic
trick! (Llinás, 2001: p. 226, his italics) Qualia are parts of the
self, the mind-EW that is indeed a “fantastic trick” due to the
mixture of EDWs! Qualia do not “facilitate the operation” of
the brain, qualia are parts of the “I” that is an EW. It is not
qualia that furnish a “well-defined” framework for the nervous
system necessar y for quick decision making, but the “I” that is
all qualia and perceptual and cognitive states, i.e., the whole
knowledge acquired throughout the life that has the unity abso-
lutely necessary for a living entity to survive. Only by intro-
duci ng the “I” in such equat ion, we can explai n the human p re-
dictions and decisions. For Llinás, there has to be a part of the
nervous system that “puts the many segments together into
something that beforehand did not exist: a unified whole
(Llinás, 2001: p. 226).” We cannot ask about the unity of a
table from the vie wpoint o f an electron! The sa me state o f a f fair
appl ies to the uni ty of the “I” and we can say: “Don ’t ask abo ut
this unity from the brain’s viewpoint”!
Frith’s approach (Frith, 2007) is quite close to the EDWs
perspective especially in respect of the mind-body problem. At
the end of the prologue, Frith underlines the main idea from his
book: the distinction between the brain and the mind is false,
the mind is created by the brain. Moreover, the brain creates
two illusions in us: (1) “we” have a direct contact with the
world (2) our mental world is private. In reality, Frith claims
that on ly the brain h as contacts with th e external world an d not
our mind. Again, the brain creates the mind. From a EDWs
perspective, mind and life are not the product of the brain or the
organism, respectively; they are both EDWs than certain
physical entities. The mental world is “private” only as a par-
ticular EW not as the product of the brain. In this case, the no-
tion of causality has to be replaced with that of correspondence.
Frith strongly believes that the “brain activity is not the same as
mental experience” (p. 15) 21. In other terms, the mind is the
product of the brain or the mind emerges from the brain. Frith
works within the unicorn-world and it is clear that he misses the
framework of EDWs. He assumes a materialist position even if
he admits that his approach “sounds” like a dualism (Frith,
2007: p. 23, footnote 5). He tries to convince us that we are not
consciousness about most of the neural states and processes,
and that the self is the product of the brain. The relationship
between brain and mind is not one-to-one. Due to his work
inside the unicorn-world and the avoidance of the identity the-
ory, Frit h is forced to u se such notion s like “causation” or “de-
pendence” 22. Obviously, from the EDWs perspective, the brain
is different from the mind but they belong to the EDWs. A
subtitle in Chapter 5 tells us directly this idea: “My perception
is not of the world, but of my brain’s model of the world”! In
my viewpoint, the perception is a mental perception so it be-
longs to the mind. According to Kant’s transcendental philoso-
phy, it is of my “mind’s model of the world”. Frith argues this
idea with the “Ames room” picture, Necker’s cube and other
visual illusions. The next subtitle, “Perception is a fantasy that
coincides with reality”, shows exactly the “correspondences”
between th e EDWs!
I consider that philosophy can still have a major role in cog-
nitive (neuro) science in our days just because the philosophical
mind-body problem has not been yet solved yet. Any alterna-
tive to this problem has created the main framework of working
for researchers of cognitive (neuro) science just because major
problems of this domain (emergence, reductionism, levels, etc.)
are strong related to the mind-brain problem. Working within
the unicorn-world, neither the identity theory nor the non- re-
ductionism perspective (ontological or epistemological) is a
plausible alternative to the mind-body problem. Mental states
could only correspond to entities that belong to other EDWs;
they are not identical, produced or supervene on states of other
hyperontological status. With the EDWs perspective, we have
to move from ontological and/or epistemological frameworks in
analysing different classes of entities to a hyperontological
framework. Thus, the EDWs perspective rejects the Cartesian
dualism, the identity theory and all the nonreductionist ap-
proaches and pushes much further Fodor’s “special science”
framework. If Fodor followed Wittgenstein’s philosophy and
Carnap’s linguistic frameworks (today, we have “conceptual
frameworks” or “levels”), the EDWs could offer the (hyper)
ontological foundations for the mind-body problem and its
related problems through replacing the unicorn-world with the
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