1.1 – A question of language
The earliest perceptions are connected with sound. Many past and present philosophers (Husserl, Derrida, Desideri etc.) state this clearly, actually attributing the birth of self identity to unconscious listening of a manifold otherness: “A voice falls into an unconscious ego, and subsequently a voice replies and receives the manifold in the unity of speech. This is how consciousness of self is born in the ego” (Desideri 1992). Naturally, when humans acquire consciousness (and, subsequently awareness, i.e. the consciousness of the ego of being conscious of self), they realise they are not alone, but belong to a community of beings with similar evolutionary development and thus feel the irresistible need to communicate with others. Human communication is based on a common mental/rational language permitting the exchange of perceived emotions (as long as they have been rationally re-worked) and rational concepts worked through by individuals. There are considerably different levels of communication, varying from a simple exchange of opinions or common emotional relationships, to the more profound and complex means of exchanging high level scientific or artistic messages. Knowledge of language is essential for complete understanding of messages exchanged by individuals. This is the case for normal exchanges and is also true for the artistic field, where any artistic manifestation or expression is essentially the communication of one human being’s messages to others. One cannot conceive of a work of art without hypothesising possible understanding of a message contained within it. This presupposes a common language common to the artist and those who approach his/her work. This language needs to be revealed, studied and fully understood. Only then can a work of art be understood. One should not envisage an individual relationship between each recipient and the work of art. It can provide sensations which could wrongly induce the idea that the recipient has actually understood the work without conscious knowledge of its language (which would lead to the belief that it is not essential).
Unfortunately, this is a common state of affairs, in the case of music, which is probably the most ‘misunderstood’ of the arts. If one is to use the word ‘language’, it must be shared and understood by many people at the same time, so that each individual can discover the necessary confirmation of his/her own reception in others. In the case of the arts, a language that can be classified as universal needs to be based on a general cultural level that will favour high level acquisition. Cultural differences may actually influence degrees of understanding, making the dialogue between recipients difficult. Nevertheless, a work of art’s universality is grounded in the certainty of unambiguous identification due to its formulation in a language common to a large number of people. As is well known, the philosophy of science attempts to unify the numerous branches into which the object under study (i.e. science) has broken up. Similarly the unity of expression of human language also needs to be re-established, not only in spheres of knowledge, but, above all, in the arts. This leads to the mystery of music, to the need to find the roots of its means of expression of a message in the same expressive roots as the language of the visual arts and literature (including poetry). Human beings are the same and the expressive modalities due to their particular constitution are always the same, whatever message or emotional content they wish or are obliged to transmit to their fellows, even at the ‘absolute moment’ of artistic creativity.
Therefore, investigation of the structure of the human brain is required as is an attempt to understand the modalities of acquisition and rationalisation of common elements of reality, fundamental to the formation of language, and thus to the very capacity for communication between human beings. We will see that this structure is set up in such a way as to favour implantation and subsequent re-use of ‘originative emotional perceptions’ (which we shall call ‘archetypes’) containing the basis of human beings’ deepest feelings and highly rational abstractions.
2.1 – Structure, functions and topography of the human brain
Human beings have a central and peripheral nervous system (Martin 1989, Danasio 1994). The former (fig. 1) includes the brain itself made up of the right and left hemispheres (cerebrum) linked by the corpus callosum, the interbrain with thalamus and hypothalamus, the mid-brain, cerebral bulb, cerebellum and spinal cord.
The latter consists of all the nerves and their endings spreading throughout the body. The whole of the body is connected up with the brain by means of the inter-connection of these two nervous systems. Thus impulses and stimuli can be transmitted very rapidly from brain to body and vice-versa. Moreover, brain and body are also chemically connected: the brain emits hormones and peptides, which, once in the blood stream, can rapidly reach the body through the arterial-venous circuit and both transmit and receive signals.
The nerve cells, or neurons, which make up the nervous system, are collected in variously structured cellular bodies: the cerebral and cerrebellar cortex, in which the cells are arranged in layers, and the small and large nuclei (caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, amygdala, thalamus, locus niger and nucleus ceruleus), in which the cells are arranged in ellipsoid groups of various sizes. During human evolution, group structure came first (subcortical area), followed by the limbic cortex (partaking of the limbic system, with the cingulate gyrus, amygdala, basal forebrain) and ending up with the neocortex (also called neopallium).
Both the layered and grouped nerve cells make up the so called ‘grey matter’, from which the nerve fibres (or ‘white matter’), required for the interconnection of the various systems, exit. The nerve fibres (called ‘axons’) (fig. 2) are filaments originating in the cell body and constitute the transmission ‘cables’ of neuronal messages. The routes followed by the axons are of varying lengths and end up in another structure of the central nervous system (short axons) or exit from it and, in nerve bundles, reach a ‘target’ such as muscle fibre in the body (long axons). Other extensions, called ‘dendra’, also originate in the neuronal body. They follow very short routes and connect the neighbouring neurons. When an axon contacts its target structure (another neuron, muscular fibres, dendra, glandular cell etc.) ‘synapse’ takes place. Dendra also terminate with synapses, usually on the surface of other neurons. All possible interconnections do exist, however, i.e. axosomatic, axoaxomatic, axodendritic and dendrodendritic synapses, so that the nervous texture is an enormous ‘loom’ of synaptic networks and complex ‘neuronal networks’.
It is estimated that there are several hundred thousand kilometres of axons and dendra making up the neuronic circuits of the human nervous system. There are from 10 to 100 billion neurons in the human brain, interconnected by means of synapse. While functioning the neurons are activated and ‘neurotransmitters’ emitted. The latter are particular chemical substances which can enter the arterial venous circuit, such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and acetylcholine, which turn the neuronal signal into an electro-chemical event, called ‘synaptic transmission’. Each neuron has an average of 1,000 synapses (on occasion as many as 5-6,000), so that the general level of reciprocal interconnection is not very high. The result is that this interconnection only concerns adjacent neurons, at a short distance from each other, so that whatever signal a single activated neuron may send out (with the emission of a neurotransmitter) it will only be received by a rather small group of neurons, which can also be activated (‘strong’ synapse) or smother the signal (‘weak’ synapse). The result of all this is that the whole group to which the neuron belongs is responsible for activation and can influence or not influence other groups of neurons.
Thus we have a cerebral make up consisting of systems of interconnected groups of neurons by means of synapse, where each group contributes to activating the system in accordance with the position occupied in the system with respect to the original signal sent out by the single activated neuron. The brain is like a ‘supersystem of systems’ in which different levels of neuron architecture can be identified, ranging from single neurons to local circuits (groups) and which concern the subcortical nuclei and cortical areas.
These results of neurobiological research over the last fifty years show that previous hypotheses in phrenology were inexact. The latter claimed that functions of the brain were exactly localised and that there were special ‘centres’ for these single functions (e.g. sight, language, behaviour, reasoning etc.). In fact functions are to be assigned to numerous single, interconnected systems, whose different, variable level of interconnectedness ‘produces’ the various mental functions which we classify as separable activities. The only part of old style phrenology that may still be valid is the claim that the localisation of neurons or groups of activated neurons receiving or producing the first stimulus in the system carrying out a particular function can be as crucial as the structure (or interconnections) of the system to which it belongs. Nevertheless, we should not forget that the same system can have different mental functions, depending on different interconnections. Therefore, each mental function cannot be exactly localised or assigned to a single group of neurons, or even to a single brain unit.
However, there is a certain functional asymmetry between the right and left brain hemispheres (Sperry 1981), in the sense that each one is interconnected with systems and groups of neurons with similar activities. This has been noted in numerous experiments, especially on people with damage in either hemisphere. The left hemisphere appears to be more analytical, controlling language, phonetic writing, rhythm, classification of sounds and colours, and logical-mathematical calculations. The right hemisphere (Ross andMesulam, Kandel et al. 1988, Marcel 1993) is prevalent in visual and spatial analysis (recognition and reproduction of figures), in some aspects of musical expression (pitch, timbre, harmonic elaboration) and in ideogram writing. It should also be noted that functional differences and asymmetries are more marked in men than women, for whom brain damage is less devastating.
The cerebrum then is made up to the two hemispheres. Below we have, in the centre and behind, the cerebellum. We shall see later on an extremely interesting functional difference separating the two. We can already note, however, that they both have the same number of neurons and synapses: c. 30 billion neurons for the cerebellum and a number of synapses that is almost equal to that of the neurons of the cerebrum. The cerebellum also appears to preside over the autonomous activities (and perhaps over the unconscious activities) of our nervous system.
2.2 – Neuron and synapse fine structure
Analysing the structure of the neurons is of the utmost importance, since a fundamental hypothesis on human consciousness (that of Penrose, which will be considered later on) concerns them. Neurons, despite their considerable size, are comparable with single cells. Like cells (but also like the ameba, paramecium and other monocellular individuals) they have a ‘cytoskeleton’, a rather complex structure with multiple functions. This structure functions as a ‘nervous system’ and ‘control system’ of the cell, and can aid the transportation of single molecules from one point of the same cytoskeleton to another (Hameroff 1987). It is interesting to note that each neuron thus has its own ‘nervous system’, which is capable of marking out its autonomy and expanding and supplementing its functions.
The cytoskeleton inside the neuron consists of bundles of tiny (micro) tubes associated with actin and organic filaments whose purpose is to hold the entire structure together (fig. 3) (Hameroff and Watt 1982).
Fig. 3 – Neuron and synapse fine structure: 1) neuron; 2) microtubules; 3) dendra; 4) synapses; 5) dendrite cord 6) actin filament 7) inter-connecting button; 8) clatrins
Each microtubule, which can be as much as a few millimetres long, has an internal diameter of c. 14 nanometres and an external one of c. 25 nanometres (one nanometre=one billionth of a metre). Its walls consist of protein called ‘tubulin’ (chemically speaking ‘dimers’ consisting of two separate parts: alpha and beta tubulin) which can be of at least two shapes, according to the state of electrical polarisation of the protein (Hammeroff and Watt 1982, Koruga 1974). This state can be influenced by substances near the protein, by means of van der Waal’s forces (electrical dipole moments) possessed by these substances. Furthermore, the microtubules can shorten and lengthen and help the transport of neurotransmitters along their outside back.
Synapses, where axons and dendrite endings are interconnected, have a particular shape: a dendrite cord, consisting of a knob containing contractile actin filaments connected with the dendrite microtubules penetrates the interconnection of the axon and comes into contact with the microtubules by means of the filaments and clatrins (a type of protein trimer in the knob whose function is still unknown) (Koruga et al. 1993). Control of the more or less ‘strong’ activities of the synapses is thought to be due to clatrin-actin filament interaction.
3.1 – Formation of mental images – Thought
Thought is generally considered to be the result of brain activity whose aim is the realisation of a logical sequence of mental images (Dennett 1991, Zeki 1992, Kosslyn et al. 1993). By ‘mental images’ we mean not only sight, but also smell, sound, touch and taste. The concept of ‘conscious mind’ is characteristically conceived of as being supported by a neural system capable of taking on stable ‘configurations’ (which can be memorised), to be articulated in congruent discourse by ‘learning and re-working centres’ of the brain. To be able to use the term ‘conscious and thinking mind’ the cognitive process needs to involve the whole body, which is able to present the various images. Actually body-brain interaction makes use both of the nerve mechanism (nerve endings transmit signals from the whole body to the brain and vice-versa) and, at the same time, also makes use of the arterial venous circuit which distributes chemical signals (hormones and neuro transmitters) from neurons throughout the body. Thus the basis for continuous, real body-brain connection exists. This allows mental images to follow each other. (Shepard and Cooper 1982, Kosslyn 1980). Naturally formation and recording modalities need to be analysed. We shall see later how the emotions are recorded. If they are fixed in the pre natal period (i.e. primary emotions) they are the initial real situations on which mental images are based.
As far as signals sent by the brain to the body are concerned, we have examined the mechanism providing for a super system of systems, where the stimuli exiting from a restricted number of neurons can either be amplified (and cover an ever widening area) or blocked and toned down (without further emission of neuro transmitters) by the neurons activated subsequently by means of synapses. Vice versa, with reference to the signals sent by the body to the brain, it appears that the nerve endings pick up and re-transmit all the stimuli received without any blocking or toning down, unless it be conscious. The stimuli are received from specific areas of the brain, within the brain cortices (sensitive cortices, called ‘specific’ or ‘primary’), reached by signals linked to sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Recent research has shown that the set of signals moving in either direction do not come to a halt at the arrival points but are reflected back, not only at the end of their journey, but also during it, as they reach different neuronal areas which they must cross. Mental images are extracted and updated from this continuous backwards and forwards movement.
3.2 – Emotion systems registration: dispositional representations – convergence areas
So as to be memorised mental images must correspond to permanent biological modifications of neuronal circuits. Subsequently the mental centres of learning will be able to recall these images to consciousness by reactivating neuronal connections with the circuits which have been modified. But it is only ‘sensory-emotional perceptions’ as physically determined bodily sensations that can induce permanent modifications in the microscopic neuronal circuits. Therefore, mental images are re-transmissions, at the organised conscious level, of the neuronal structural modifications induced by emotional perceptions. Naturally, the term ‘emotional perceptions’ is used here in its widest sense, including any conscious (or unconscious) acquisition of sensory notions. A ‘sensory-emotional perception’ may come form either inside or outside the body and consist in the neurophysiological reflection of an event which can be received by man’s senses and nerve endings, inducing either a temporary or permanent structural modification of a neuronal circuit. We also recall that every perception has ‘information’ contained in the reality from which it originates. This includes the logical-physical structuring of this reality. We shall see later that it is precisely this ‘structured information’ that determined and developed the implements for future rational elaborations (neocortex) in primitive humans and that today, having been identified and assimilated by the mind’s learning centres, it contributes to the child’s acquisition of rational capacities.
Any system of ‘information’ analysis requires computational algebraic and algorithmic operations. The neurons of certain brain areas (cerebrum left hemisphere) can function as calculation units and memorise the logical-mathematical-physical parts of the emotions. The hypothesis has also been posited that the microtubule tubulin dimers can carry out this function efficiently (by changing geometric configuration), given the enormous number of dimers (estimated as ten million for each neuron).
The mechanism for changing the structure of neuronal circuits (caused by emotional perceptions) consists in the formation of ‘dispositional representations’ of connection patterns of neuronal activities, which are organised topographically and permanent. More than one group of neurons can naturally take part in these activities at the same time, in relation to the various body organs receiving emotional perceptions.
How can we picture ‘dispositional representations’? A neuronal circuit subjected to an emotional perceptive stimulus takes on a different set up which is memorised. This can simply be a question of modification of molecular constituent geometry modification (which can then return to an inactive state or, when called upon, to the modified position).
To foreground the importance of dispositional representations it is enough to point out that they ‘represent’ the body with regard to the mind. Through them the mind ‘feels’ the body with all varieties and subtleties of the sensory perceptions received from both inside and outside. We recall here that an emotional perception is ‘metabolised’ by several neuronal circuits belonging to the different organs that perceived it, so that we are also obliged to presuppose the existence of ‘convergence areas’ (small sets of neurons), to which the various permanent set ups (dispositional representations) induced in the neuronal circuits of the various organs (Damasio 1989, A.R. Damasio and H. Damasio 1993, Edelman, 1988) are linked.
A ‘convergence area’ should be seen as being made up of a set of synapses collecting and rearranging the emotional perception seen through the numerous dispositional representations of neurons in the parts of the nervous system affected by the same perceptive stimulus. The convergence area can in turn be stimulated and activated, and, through synapse, reach the dispositional representations. Once these have been recomposed and reactivated, they can evoke and retransmit the emotions that the learning centres are to supply to the conscious mind in the shape of mental images. Recent research (Damasio 1995: 142-151) shows how the learning centres capable of recomposing mental images are situated in the sensory associative cortices, which, under the stimulus of a new perception or recollection, are able to reactivate the set of areas whose task is to search for and identify those dispositional representations which we have already indicated as being a topographical neuronal organisation of permanent structural modifications due to each emotional perception. Nowadays it is thought that all (not only the emotional part) of man’s knowledge is situated in neuronal dispositional representations, even though the mechanism calling them up is still under study. The latter is believed to be due not only to outside stimuli, but also to autonomous activity of the conscious, and, especially, subconscious mind, as we shall see later.
3.3 – Innate neural circuits and modifiable circuits: primary and secondary emotions
We have seen that the brain is made up of older (palaeo cortical) and more recent (neo cortical) areas. It is crucial to investigate whether ‘automatic’ setting up in either
area of neural circuits is possible in human genetics. These circuits will then set up ‘dispositional representations’. Much work in neurobiology has shown that the whole human genome is insufficient to exactly locate the single elements either of our organism or brain. We actually have a genetic set up consisting of an estimated 30,000 units, when the synapses of our main nervous system (also including the brain) alone certainly consist of more than 10,000 billion units. This leads to the conviction that present genes can only allow automatic ‘innate’ creation of very few neural circuits, while most of them will come about as the result of continuous interaction with the environment and mental re-workings due to emotional perceptions acquired during our lifetimes.
Why should genes be behind the creation of neural circuits? The answer is a simple one: all living beings have common basic functions, which can only be transmitted in a uniform manner genetically. For example, vital functions such as breathing, the working of the heart, nutrition and metabolism, reproductive (sexual) and survival (inner defence from illness and external defence from aggression of living beings or the environment) ones must obviously be overseen by neural circuits (and their dispositional representations) which are innate, cannot be modified, and are able to set up similar behavioural reactions for all living species. While the brain uses these innate neural circuits ‘technically’, in the service of its own existence and that of the being to whom it belongs, in the case of human beings the appearance of the ‘conscious mind’, i.e. of a quid linked not only with generic ‘consciousness’ of external reality, but also with self awareness (consciousness of self) ensures that these innate neural circuits be present in the brain and take part in the mind’s activity as ‘constituents of primary emotions’ (Damasio 1995: 192-196) (e.g. various kinds of heart beat are sources of ‘primary emotion’).
These ‘primary emotions’, in the form of dispositional representations, together with those acquired during a life time, can be the first structural and then cultural basis of rational awareness, once they have been recalled by the menonic storage of the subconscious and rationally re-worked. These circuits are known to be situated in the cerebral bulb and hypothalamus (vital and survival functions) and the limbic system (instincts, response pulsions, emotions), which also contains modifiable circuits. It is the latter that set the sequence of various experiences and situations encountered by human beings during their life times. These circuits, through synapses, make up permanent dispositional representations, which are different each time they undergo a change caused by various experiences. Together the dispositional representations make up the mind’s know-how, used to install the process of reason.
The innate neural circuits of the limbic system (which are closely connected to those with the vital and survival functions) hold the key to individual emotional reactions due to danger, fear, or emergency. We called ‘primary emotions’ those emotional perceptions that make use of these circuits to carry out permanent dispositional representations inextricably linked to those situations, and by means of which man will be able, subsequently, to consciously recognise, by comparison, single perceptions and set up the necessary reaction. The amygdala and front cingulum appear to be mostly where signals from these circuits arrive.
Modifiable neural circuits are, on the other hand, closely connected to the so-called ‘secondary emotions’ (Damasio 1995: 196-202). This time the subsequent dispositional representations fix the transitory perceptive-emotional moments which life presents to us instant by instant. They are frequently due to main interactions between new situations and primary emotions. For this reason innate circuits are often involved (again the amygdala and cingulum being involved) but not only. Secondary emotions, even consciously, are involved with dispositional representations situated in the upper (prefrontal and somato-sensitive) cerebral cortices. The mind thus appears to begin to be structured with the control and rational elaboration of secondary emotions, as well as with the setting up of the ‘emotional response’ which may involve the entire human organism.
3.4 – The by-pass circuit and emotional appeal
It is the emotional response following both a new emotional perception and appeal to it through the mental learning centres that offers us the opportunity to analyse a recent well founded hypothesis. As we have seen, the connection between brain and body through the entire central and peripheral nervous system is extremely complex and exhaustive. The perception and acquisition of a secondary emotion, followed by a mental response worked out by the mind, normally concerns the entire brain-body set. However, it has also been observed that the neural circuits activated step by step emit backward retroactive signals with a subsequent return, almost setting off a ‘permanent resonance vibration’ lasting until the end of acquisition of emotional perception and any possible emotive response from it.
Now, these backward signals may concern both the entire system of neural circuits or only part of them. A ‘resounding by pass circuit’ may be activated excluding the parts of the peripheral system which are more closely linked with the viscera, articulations and sensory systems of the human body, as far as a by pass which is almost exclusive to the brain, particularly in the neural formations containing the dispositional representations created by single emotional perceptions, without directly participating in the single senses, by means of which the emotional signals have actually been perceived. The by pass circuit (Damasio 1995: 223-227) is also called the ‘as if’ circuit, since it allows mental participation of a primary or secondary emotion (and/or of the mental re-workings) ‘as if’ the entire bodily circuit perceiving it for the first time had been activated. The brain by pass mechanism is supposedly activated at the request of the conscious mind, especially during an intense return of a previously felt emotion, or, simply during recollection of it, with different degrees of intensity, according to the neural installation level of the by pass.
3.5 – Feelings
Let us finally examine how modern neurobiology conceives feelings (Damasio 1995: 228-234) (‘prolonged emotion’) in relation to the single emotional perceptions which generated them. As has already been pointed out, emotions are contained and represented in the set of dispositional representations generated by the neural circuits receiving them by means of the perceptive-sensory mechanisms peculiar to the human body. Now, emotions of the same type referring to the same situation, even if they have been put together at different times, generate very similar dispositional representations, which are accumulated over time, and which make up a congruent emotional set up, which can be appealed to by mental images provoked by memories or external stimuli. The set of these ‘modulated emotions’, which have thus returned to consciousness, generate a state we will call ‘feelings’ or even ‘state of mind’ in the mind and body.
4.1 – Rationality and emotion acquisition. Mental phenomena connected with rational activity. Knowledge
We have seen the neural circuits that fix emotional perceptions and ability of mental centres to call upon them, also by means of by-pass circuits. The characteristic of the last generation of human beings (homo sapiens) consists in having acquired so-called “rationality” by means of these perceptions (Davidson 1992). The neocortex area gradually built up on them, analysing them and took over the mathematical-physical computational content in the electro-magnetic and elastic-acoustic signals causing them, in the end learning to reconstruct them rationally from single dispositional representations stored in subconscious memory, connected with the various senses which perceived them, in accordance with patterns which are known to submit to a single logic. Function created the organ. Now let us look, in greater detail, into the way in which the living species acquired the necessary tools for the expression of emotional and rational qualities, and how the required physiological organs came into being.
The first “living” cell could be so defined (and thus differentiated from the “non-living” macromolecules) because, right from the start, it had the ability to “preserve” its structure for a certain period of time (i.e. life) and “reproduce itself” by using and incorporating non living molecules, with the purpose of realising similar cells, which could continue the life process even after its “destructuring” (or death). But was this cell “aware” of being alive?
The most advanced contemporary science (as we shall see later) posits a tiny “degree of consciousness” even for this cell, correlating the level of consciousness with the “degrees of freedom”, which are extremely limited. Nevertheless, the interaction of this living cell with its environment was already of the “perceptive-emotional” type: acoustic or electromagnetic stimuli struck it, so as to inform it when and how to realise its elementary functions, or kill it. Thus every subsequently better “organised” form of life (i.e. equipped with single, different and ever more structured functional organs) clashed with an external environment rich in signals which could be subjected to “emotional perception”. This is why, millions of years ago, the first examples of animal life (with much higher “levels of freedom” than those of a single cell) acquired tools and organs able to receive these elements capable of provoking “emotions” (and ellipsoid structures such as the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala etc. appeared in their brains, as we have already seen), the purpose of this being survival, a particular “lifestyle”, reproduction and grouping in families (self recognition), before death. It is indeed the case that function created the organ, i.e. the functional needs linked with their kind of life realised the organs able to preserve it. Without reception of the “emotional perceptions” from the surrounding environment (and the development of the necessary organs), there would have been no defence or preservation of the species, neither would the first organised living species have appeared.
Naturally, if the first cell had an elementary “degree of consciousness, it must have been greater in more advanced living species, as situations to be dealt with became more complex and as “degrees of freedom” connected with relational life increased. Thus an increase in the degree of consciousness is an essential feature flanking ability to receive and “metabolise” emotional perceptions in living beings.
When and why did rationality appear? The most logical answer is that the “organ formation” mechanism originating in emotional perceptions continued and brought about the cerebral cortex. “Emotions” perceived as such by a living being are actually caused, as has already been mentioned, by stimuli and signs containing information from the universe which generated it, and which consist of undulatory structures (elastic and electro-magnetic waves) and associated mathematical-physical functions, which, with our present minds, we consider perfectly comprehensible and describable as rational, computational and algorithmic models. Once again we can claim that function created the organ: the brain structures of the palaeocortex and, subsequently, of the neocortex (built up in the only possible way for determining acquisition and understanding) came into being, so as to completely receive the structuring, computational, and mathematical-physical part of emotional perceptions.
Now, if the birth of rationality was due to emotional perceptions, this had to be followed by “consciousness of rationality”, which is an indispensable condition for subsequent realisation of the conscious (and preconscious) rational mind, i.e. of what is normally known as “mind”, which is here seen as the continuous, voluntary act of conscious (and preconscious) rationality with the aim of acquiring, elaborating and accumulating “knowledge”. Naturally, computational characteristics and logical patterns are assimilated and memorised (probably in the same way as emotional perceptions), so that they can be continuously recalled and used in what we have called “conscious and preconscious rational activity”. We learn the logic of their intrinsic manifestation from emotional perceptions. The mind (Allman et al. 1993), making use of brain parts belonging to the last stage in evolution (the neocortex), is able to abstract this logic, then to be used in very limited, exclusive by pass circuits.
This is where knowledge begins. As has already been mentioned, it is a question of removing the emotional part from emotional perceptions, so as to use, for physiological structuring, the logical skeleton they must possess, seeing that they are the daughters of external realities, subject to precise universal physical-chemical laws following common structural logic. For example, a “sound” emotional perception, such as a sudden thunder clap, or a crash etc. originates from and is transmitted through elastic waves with well determined mathematical-physical characteristics deriving from their means of propagation. There is an undulatory structure with a numerically well defined wave frequency, which can be described by means of differential equations found and formulated by our mind as soon as it was able to do so through organic structuring (especially the neocortex) acquired during the natural emotional metabolisation process (consisting in fixing archetypes and association and re-elaboration of received sensory-emotional percepts).
A similar case is that of a “visual” emotional perception, appearing by means of electro-magnetic waves generated by disturbance of fields other than sound ones, but with identical logical-mathematical structuring. The same is true of smell and taste emotional perceptions, which have precise a chemical basis and biophysical transmission. This appears to be the basic mechanism of knowledge acquisition (James 1890, Lazarus 1984, Mandler 1984). By means of emotional perceptions our conscious mind, from the exterior, receives the logic and general laws of the working of the reality around us. Perceivable emotions are its real mirror and the means by which living beings have been able, using their nervous-neural living system, to receive and metabolise abstract, “non-living” realities (physical laws, logical-mathematical criteria deriving from them etc.), as well as, naturally, receiving, memorising and reconstructing the emotional signs themselves, which played the role of “main support wave”. Modern human beings, with their mind made ready by consolidated genetic patterns, “filter” the support wave, acquiring its logical patterns, which contribute to re-acquiring functional and rational structuring, in short, its very functioning.
The human conscious mind, once it has been rationally structured clearly appears to be able to “newly express” the logical realities learnt from different perceptions, building up physical-mathematical abstractions, general theories, and philosophical systems of great, though not exhaustive, value. It will be a permanent prisoner of this logic, from which it cannot free itself, except, as we shall see, by intervention by the “pre-subconscious”, which is capable of imposing otherwise perceived, in the end “alogical” “notions”.
To return to modern human beings, we can note that they possess not only a system of registration of emotional perceptions endowing them with instinctive reactions similar to those of animals (LeDoux 1992, Zola-Morgan 1991), but also with conscious rationality allowing all kinds of non instinctive analysis and which can block, delay or expand these reactions. Recent neurobiological research has come to the conclusion that conscious rationality in human beings has been built up on their perceptive-emotional know-how and did not previously exist as an independent reality, as many philosophers and scientists had believed in the past. We still, certainly, need to define and understand the phenomena of consciousness and awareness (self-consciousness) (Sperry et al. 1979, Ornstein1973, Rose 1973), and it will be of great interest to analyse their causes and acquisition hypotheses by the mind (which we will deal with later), even though we have had a glimpse of the acquisition mechanism of rationality. Nevertheless, nowadays, this rationality is a specific, autonomous characteristic of the conscious, self-aware mind, conditioning its very working, to the extent that all human activity is influenced by it.
4.2 – The role of the subconscious
We now need to widen our viewpoint and analyze what is commonly called the human “psyche”, i.e. a global capacity for self perception going beyond conscious rationality.
Actually non conscious “psychic activity” exists and has been identified in human beings that the mind can ignore. We are not always aware of our psychic activity. Emotions, images and thoughts are memorized in dispositional representations, as has been pointed out, but this process is not necessarily always under conscious control, and this often takes place automatically and unconsciously (Gardner 1983, Sutherland 1992, Poincaré 1908). Psychoanalysis argues that a part of non conscious psychic activity can be brought back to the mind’s consciousness. This part is called “preconscious activity” and the place where it takes place “subconscious”.
Only subsequently (§5.4) shall we consider the so-called “unconscious”, the other part of non conscious psychic activity, where fears, undesired emotions, and fragments of life pathologically removed by the rational mind supposedly reside (almost as though it had “temporarily interrupted” the neurons belonging to the relevant dispositional representations). In the view of psychoanalysis, the “unconscious” can only reappear in special analysis sessions, and by means of hypnotism on the part of the psychoanalyst. This is not the case with deliberate artistic creation, where some degree of deliberate “self-hypnotism” may be required (particular sleep or deep concentration) and where the “positive acquisitions of the unconscious mind” can be identified, arguably without “pathologies” of the unconscious. The seat of the “unconscious or subconscious mind” is still unknown. It has been argued that the cerebellum may be involved, since it presides over most uncontrollable automatic activities taking place in the human body, contains an almost equal number of neurons as those of the brain and can be the autonomous seat of dispositional representations. Nevertheless, there is not sufficient proof, for the moment, to be certain about this.
Now, during conscious artistic creation, the human mind can rationally control the emotions, feeling and instinct (to the extent of humiliating, on occasion, the finest, most authentic products!), but, luckily, it cannot control subconscious activity, a safety valve and, especially, the place where human beings take over the great emotional syntheses subsequently to be translated in an artistic fact of the mind itself, once it has been enabled to take part, at the conscious level, by means of the appropriate neural circuits.
How does the subconscious act? It is normally hidden, seeing that the conscious mind usually occupies the entire field, but there are moments when the mind “loosens” its degree of consciousness (during sleep or deep concentration). This is when the subconscious comes onto the scene, imposing its rhythms. As has already been said, it certainly possesses all the individual’s emotional know-how (consisting of the entire mnemonic apparatus of sensorial acquisitions, as well as the relevant emotional perceptions), but it rejects rational structuring by the conscious mind, so as to express itself by means of “global flashes of inspiration” which subsequently involve the whole being, and, lastly, incredibly, the mind as well, which appears to look on in astonishment and silence at what is happening, even though it gets its own back in the translation of these “flashes” into an artistic fact through appropriate rational language (consisting for us, as we shall see, in the “rational re-elaborations of the evoked archetypes”), so as to communicate to other beings what was learnt during these flashes of inspiration.
It could be argued that the subconscious uses all the by-pass circuits at the same time, elaborating its “own” logic, collecting together the emotional perceptions, which is different from that of the conscious mind, a prisoner of its own build up. Subsequently, the mind will be forced to undertake “rational re-expression” of what it perceived from the subconscious, in this process the artist’s genius setting to work. He/she is never obliged to reduce or humiliate the message, but rather expand, enrich it, and make it “unique”, by means of his/her most refined expressive techniques. As we have already mentioned, the scientist is also an artist, when he/she follows the same process, “positing” a major global scientific hypothesis, which will then be built up through mathematical “technologies of expression”, and subsequently tested rationally and experimentally.
Einstein (1945) described in similar terms his “flash of inspiration” preluding the formulation of the Theory of General Relativity, subsequently tested experimentally many times. The same is true of Watson and many others. Leo Szilard (1992) argued that the creative scientist had much in common with the artist and poet, the creative process on which scientific progress is based operating at the subconscious level, while Jonas Salk (1985) argued that creativity rested on a combination of intuition and reason.
5.1 – Consciousness and awareness of self. The mind and its rational activity
Before proceeding some clarification is required of the human being’s highest qualities, of their inter-connections and manifestations. We have already dealt with the brain, nervous system, systems of registration, recall, and rational re-elaboration of sensory-emotional perceptions. Now we must examine the conditions under which all this functions.
Consciousness is a quality peculiar to the mind (Johnson-Laird 1983, Gazzaniga and Le Doux 1978, Humphrey 1992): without it thought in humans cannot be conceived. We also said that there is unconscious psychic activity, which, however, under particular conditions, can be brought up to the conscious mental level. Clearly, what we mean by “mind” does not coincide with the brain, the nervous system etc., but will make use of these “body substrata” for its “thinking activity”, for its autonomous, active functioning, deliberately chosen and determined (i.e. free will), which presupposes a conscious attitude.
There are three qualitative characteristics of living beings:
– the perceptive-emotional quality (i.e. the faculty for picking up sensory-emotional perceptions)
– the rational quality (i.e. the faculty for creating logical-computational aggregations)
– the conscious quality (i.e. the faculty for feeling to be existing reality)
In human beings, one commonly refers to the “emotional-rational conscious mind”.
But do animals have “minds”? They are certainly conscious of surrounding reality and their own existence, which they strive to maintain. This “mental level” is also based on the working of their brains and nervous systems, and is capable of perceiving, storing and recalling emotions, and perhaps “rationalize them” in embryo. What distinguishes animals from humans is the “degree” of consciousness (Dennett 1991) closely connected to the mental level. The degree of consciousness possessed appears to condition the complete highlighting of the other qualities: “feeling emotion” (which is also possible for animals) is different from “being aware of feeling emotion”; “having computation faculties” (which has been demonstrated for some animals) is different from ‘being aware of having computation faculties” and thus knowing that one can develop them autonomously and use them (as is the case with humans) in complex elaborations of scientific theories. These “differences” are certainly correlated with the “degree of consciousness” possessed. Beyond generic consciousness, the “consciousness of being conscious”, self awareness, is present in humans. The fact that humans also possess non conscious perceptive faculties – and are aware of the fact – enormously increases their possibilities of expression, to the extent of making them “creators” of Art and Science. The same is true of what is commonly termed “imagination”, which is proper to humans, not animals, and which can only be associated with a high level of consciousness, given that only this requisite can activate freedom of mental processes (Johnson 1987, Miller 1983) allowing re-evocations and aggregations which are always different from one’s own dispositional representations. This is only the “imagination” due to self-consciousness, since, as we shall see, humans can also realize subconscious “imagination”.
As has already been mentioned, the “structural analysis” mechanisms of sensory emotional perceptions (consisting in the extraction and fixing of their computational parts), piloted by the brain centres where self-consciousness is situated, during evolution, led to the acquisition of truly “autonomous rational activity” capable of important manifestations and expression of this “rationality”, for example, the possibility of creating technical-mathematical models of the universe, to attempt an explanation and prediction of certain evolutions. This only belongs to humans and not animals, and is certainly connected with humans’ high “degree of consciousness”. It is also extraordinary that humans can “create” (or receive from outside?) concepts and ideas which do not exist in spatio-temporal reality to which they belong, such as the idea of mathematical “infinity” (actually, more than one infinity at different levels) (Zichichi 1996), to which physical “infinity” in no way corresponds! But let us take a more detailed look at the effects and limits of rational activity acquired by the conscious human mind over time. In the meantime, in the attempt to set up a plausible model of the reality in which it is immersed, the mind (once in possession of the necessary “tools”, i.e. structuring of the cerebral cortex) began to “count” (compute) things and then realize mathematical algorithms and computational algebraic functions (in which we can also include probability calculations and chaos systems (Gleich 1996), since they are expressed with determinist mathematical models), applying these calculation tools to its own physical models, it subjected, at the same time, the mathematical structures and related formulated theorems to strict logical-formal criticism. This led to several different considerations and results:
- the external physical world (which we identify as the space and time to which we belong and which contains the elements of all the realities we perceive and make use of) obeys precise “laws”. Now, in the attempt to make them “knowable” and usable (trying to predict behaviour of the different realities and subject them to our will), the rational mind elaborated “computational” descriptions (Davis 1978) of these physical realities in the shape of “mathematical laws of physics”, but do the latter, which are so convenient and rationally understandable, truly coincide with real physical laws? Actually, we can see that theoretical physics is constantly in search of more adequate, complete models, almost as if our mathematical description were incapable of being “definitive”.
- the mathematical structures and formulated theorems were severely criticized in the logical-formal sense after 1930. We have also seen that there are a series of “non computational” mathematical problems (Davis 1965, Davis and Hersch 1973) (for example, Hilbert’s tenth problem on Diophantine equations, whose solutions have recently been shown to be systematically unobtainable by means of computational mathematical algorithms or computer programs. The computationally irresolvable problem of “tiling” (Golomb 1965, Grunbaum and Shepard 1983), i.e. the algorithmic search for definite geometric forms, able to cover a Euclidian plane without leaving gaps; the impossibility of calculating the square root of negative numbers). Then Gödel’s theorem (Gödel 1986, 1990, 1995) irrefutably demonstrating that mathematical truths cannot be ascertained by means of knowable valid algorithms: no algorithmic procedure can decide on the truth or otherwise of all mathematical propositions or enunciations.
5.2 – The non computational in the mind and surroundings
The presence of the “non computational”, of which the mind can be aware (Sutherland 1992, Church 1936) but not “understand” (since it cannot be rationally described by means of a mathematical algorithm), as well as the definitive critique of the “computational” in Godel’s theorem, establish the limits of the rational quality of the human mind. Now, any sensory-emotional perception reaching the conscious or subconscious mind from inside or outside the body, certainly also has computational characteristics (it is on them that “rationality” built up!), but not only: and the “non computational” part of these perceptions can only be directly “understood” by the mind’s conscious and subconscious levels from the moment that the rational level is unable to do so. Why are the emotional perceptions fundamentally “non computational”? Because they do not follow the Law of cause and effect: a single cause of emotion is received by individuals in completely different ways, producing different “effects”, and thus violating the so-called computational law. Besides, we shall shortly also see how the sensory-emotional archetypes, although also built up computationally, contain elements that can only be assimilated by conscious and subconscious mental qualities, owing the potential, acquirable psychological reflex.
It should be remembered that the “non computational” is not only a deficit of the rational human mind linked with a demonstrated impossibility of finding definitive solutions to questions it has raised itself and which are analysed in it, such as problems of theoretical physics or certain mathematical-geometric ones (Diophantine equations, “tiling” etc.), neither is it only present in the perceptive-emotional acquisitions, which, basically, are always linked to the living-conscious structure of the human being: the “non computational” is a peculiar structuring quality of physical space and time, and existed, in our universe, before the advent of life; non computational phenomenologies (such as the “superimposed states” of the photon or the effect of large scale quantum coherence) are the basis of the building up of our universe, and are arguably its most fascinating mystery.
It should also be remembered that non computational phenomena are always generally linked to violation of the “Principle of cause and effect”, something which cannot be conceived of for computational phenomena and the mathematical-physical laws interpreting them. Modern Quantum Physics has brought extraordinary experiments to light, in which it is clearly demonstrated that there is no longer a direct relationship between cause and effect, and that on occasion (and not only the first time, as the physical big bang hypothesis would have it) matter can spring to life from nothing: an “effect” without a direct cause! Obviously, these experiments, when they can be reproduced à la Galileo, cannot be sustained and interpreted by means of mathematical-physical computational theories elaborated by the rational mind.
Returning to the rational human mind, it should be remembered that, in the attempt to increase its computational capacities (and, especially, speed), over time, it created first mechanical, and then electrical machines (i.e. computers), which are now able to accomplish extraordinary feats. Robots can now, amazingly, replace manual, and certain intelligent human functions. Thus the term “artificial intelligence” is used in the sense of it almost being possible to transfer the qualities of the human intellect to robots. However, not even the famous “Turing machinery” (Turing 1950) (an ideal computer capable of carrying out an unlimited number of computational operations with infinite speed) is able to address and deal with the “non computational”, which is the most particular characteristic of the emotional perceptions of the conscious mind. Thus they, before being metabolised by the rational part of the conscious mind, must be acquired, either by means of a self-conscious phase (that of the consciousness of the Self which is perceiving sensory-emotional stimuli) or by means of an automatic phase (the subconscious). Nevertheless, both are to be realised by cerebral “tools” (capable of “hosting”, “containing” and “putting to work” both consciousness and the subconscious), able to send their sensory-emotional perception to the neural circuits whose function is to create permanent dispositional representations, allowing their memorising and subsequent recall.
We shall then see that these “tools” are active in the cerebrum and cerebellum.
Ambiguity still persists when, in computer software, after normal top down procedures (made up of defined, unchangeable algorithms supported by univocal logic), bottom up (Anthony and Biggs 1992) calculation procedures were introduced. The latter consist of accumulation of computational knowledge to be selected and used as an alternative for problem solving, flanked by choice logical methods conditioned by experimental input gradually received during procedure and whose purpose is calculation time optimisation, in a usually constantly variable form. The “intelligent quality” of the rational human brain was believed to have been definitively and identified and simulated and that it could be transferred to computers and robots. This was supported by the introduction, in electronic circuits, of the so-called “artificial neural network system” simulating the structure of the neurons of the human nervous system, where transistors were positioned in the place of synapses. But, obviously, in bottom up procedures as well, apart from “free” choice methods (though conditioned for function optimisation!), memorised knowledge remains entirely “computational” and do not escape this “curse”. Therefore, no computer will ever be able to take human beings’ place, since no robot will ever be able to build another robot by itself with superior logical working, but only make a clone of itself. Self-conscious (and not computational) human beings, on the other hand, can, if they wish, create robot-computers, by applying increasingly different, higher level logic.
5.3 – Global psychic activity (the conscious and unconscious mind) – Places of activity
We mentioned the fact that sensory-emotional perceptions are fundamentally “non computational” realities, though with “computational” structuring. We must now analyse whether, where and how, in the human brain, the possibility of “picking up the non computational” exists. If we find the place of this function (by identifying its activisation mechanisms), it, in all probability, will be the same one where the conscious quality of the mind as far as the level of awareness, as well as the unconscious quality proper to homo sapiens sapiens is made manifest, lives and expresses itself. We will take over a hypothesis formulated by Roger Penrose (1996), reworking the views of numerous physicists, biophysicists and biologists.
In the scientific sector, after the formulation of the General Theory of Relativity, which globally interprets our space and time and supplies numerous explanations and forecasts on the make-up of the universe in which we live, the turn came of quantum physics, whose main laws and hypotheses derive from the need to interpret experimental facts connected with the fine structure of matter (for example, the diffraction of electrons, the effects of field propagation by “quanta”, the possibility of existence of “superimposed states” for the same photon, the “quantum coherence” effect leading to the emission of a laser etc.). Now, while part of the theories regarding specific physical pheomenologies have been described with perfectly computational mathematical laws (Relativity, Schroedinger’s Equation), other phenomenologies are, as has already been mentioned, entirely “non computational” (the “superimposed states” of the photon, the large scale quantum coherence effect). Now, if, in the human brain, we identify “particular areas” where a non computational phenomenon can take place, there is a strong probability of having pointed to a possible “place of perception” of emotional acquisitions, and thus the long looked for seat of consciousness (Eccles 1994, Beck and Eccles 1992).
Here is Penrose’s hypothesis: the same neurons, which, with their inter-connected structure of dendra and synapses are charged with the recording of sensory-emotional perceptions and their recall, have, in the fine structure constituting their interior, the possibility of hosting “non computational” events. The set of microtubules making up the neuron cytoskeletons can, if they are inter-connected on a large scale (i.e. the whole cerebrum) give rise to quantum coherence phenomena (which, as has already been said, are “non computational”). These phenomena are possible for the very microtubule structure, which, apart from permitting the possibility of inter-connection, is able to realise sufficient “isolation” from the external environment, which is necessary for the avoidance of any interaction that could disturb and destroy the coherent correlated state realised within the microtubules (believed to be due to quantum oscillation of “ordinate” water molecules, occupying the inside of the microtubules). This is not all, but in accordance with the most recent Penrose-Hameroff model, proteins (known as “tubulines”) making up the microtubules, which normally have stable alpha and beta forms, could, on occasion, have a single non computational alpha-beta “superimposed state”: the transitional phenomena from pre-subconscious to conscious states are arguably connected with the transition (reduction) from an alpha-beta “superimposed state” to stable alpha ad beta ones. Scientific experiments are now taking place to confirm this hypothesis. Nevertheless, it is very important for the quantum coherence phenomenon to be large scale, i.e. embracing the whole large cerebrum, almost as if there were a “coherent critical mass” with which to associate the appearance of the complete self-conscious level (Penrose 1996). If this were not the case, animals could also achieve this, while they actually only have generic consciousness of their existence and reality. It is only in elephants and orang-utans (with a large brain mass) that some level of self-consciousness (and imagination) appears to be present, as shown by various experiments.
We will have proof of the validity of the Penrose hypothesis when it is possible to carry out experiments and quantum coherence measurements inside the microtubules. In any case, there is already interesting indirect proof, and it is provided by the commonly used way of interrupting consciousness: the use of general anaesthetics. These chemical substances (such as chloroform, halothane, ethyl ether, nitrogen protoxide, xenon etc.) are very numerous, have no chemical affinity and are entirely different morphologically, almost as if the purely “chemical” effect had no influence on “loss of consciousness”; the only hypothesis left would then be “physical” interference (van der Waals forces (Hameroff and Watt 1983), i.e. interaction of molecules with an “electrical dipole moment”) which could modify the tubulin dimer configuration (by means of commutation), with disappearance of the alpha-beta coherent correlate state, thus causing temporary alteration in microtubule inter-connection, and thus loss of consciousness.
Naturally, the quantum coherence phenomenon can also concern brain areas where non conscious perceptive-emotional acquisition takes place, in our hypothesis, activating the subconscious. If this is the case, anaesthetic substances could also temporarily interrupt the unconscious emotional acquisition circuit, seeing that the interruption mechanism is at microtubule level, and the substances evidently do not distinguish the microtubules subtending conscious from unconscious perception. Certainly, even in the cases of subjects under total anaesthetic, we cannot exclude the existence of individual’s acquisition of surrounding elements of reality, since the”bodily sensors” (hearing, sight etc.) connected with external neuronal areas and the circuits capable of memorising impulses automatically remain active. However, the absence of global conscious and unconscious perceptive-emotional acquisition should relegate these automatic acquisitions to a quasi “photographic” role, and the subsequent total re-acquisition of psychic capacities should allow perception and description of these anomalous acquisitions as “detached moments”, independent of the individual’s vital and emotional “continuum”.
We mentioned that the exterior of the microtubule has computational elaboration capabilities required for metabolisation of conscious and unconscious, rational level perceptions/emotions. It is most probable that it is here that the process of perception analysis and rationalisable extraction part takes place and they are then transmitted to particular neural circuits of the left brain neocortex, whose task is the realisation of logical-mathematical-philosophical-analytical dispositional representations, while the non rationalisable, “non computational” parts of the emotional perceptions are directly despatched to the neural circuits connected with the right neocortex, whose task is the realisation of autonomous-creative-artistic-synthetic dispositional representations.
Concluding this part devoted to mental mechanisms, we repeat that only the human psyche, which is supplied with a mind that is both rational and (consciously and unconsciously) self-conscious, can include and accept both the computable and non computable. If the qualities of rationality developed on the “computable” parts (i.e. describable with algorithmic language and mathematical calculation) of emotional perceptions, it seems clear that this rationality cannot “include” or “contain” the non computable, which is a kind of “a-rational presence”, but, seeing that the “non computable” exists and is accepted by the human mind, it must be associated with the qualities of consciousness and the subconscious, which flank the quality of rationality in the articulated composition of the human psyche. We should recall that consciousness and the subconscious accept alogical, a-rational intuition in the normal components of human life, so that all human knowledge cannot help seeing the highest level of consciousness (self-awareness) joined with rational (computational) and a-rational (non computational) mental mechanisms. In our hypothesis, the subconscious plays a fundamental role, seeing that we have noted that major artistic and scientific inspiration has an unconscious origin and is only brought to the conscious level after “inspiration” (a global event, containing from the outset the seeds of unconscious rational structuring) has taken place. In the locus of the subconscious, wherever it may be, inspiration takes place (by activation of quantum coherence?), and, we should recall, can only be realised after days, months or years of conscious meditation on the chosen theme. It is still unknown how conscious meditation, maybe carried out only in the areas of the cerebrum where consciousness is situated acts on “inspiration” (which is supposed to be in the subconscious), and how the latter can reach the conscious level, even though there could be special interconnecting neural circuits that can be activated under certain conditions.
A final observation on the question of the “large scale quantum coherence” state, which could be the basis of conscious and unconscious phenomena: if and when quantum coherence could concern only the brain areas where the subconscious/unconscious is situated, this could be the scientific basis for the study of the so-called “extra-sensory” phenomena. Furthermore, the possibility has recently been discovered (Aspect and Grangier 1986) of distance transmission of coherent, correlate states, though many experiments will be required to definitively confirm the phenomenon. If this were confirmed, we would have a physiological-physical basis for dealing with phenomena of distance correlation of large scale quantum coherence effects; in other words, the quantum coherence effect could be simultaneously activated not only on one, but several brains, and this could be a scientific basis for explanation of phenomena such as the extraordinary group feeling sometimes noted in team sports (groups of players making up so-called “supraindividual entity” groups), group hysteria or telepathic transmission phenomena, or other parascientific or paranormal manifestations (to use present day terminology).
5.4 – Confirmation from Psychoanalysis
The latest developments in psychoanalysis offer striking confirmation of the existence of “double logic” in the structure of the psyche and thus in the universe to which it belongs (which, as we have seen, has characteristics, which are, at the same time, computational and non computational). We are referring to the research carried out by the great psychoanalyst Matte Blanco, who, after analysing thousands of patients, was able to formulate the laws of the unconscious and its relationship with consciousness, and find the above mentioned characteristics there. But, before dealing with the question we must refer briefly to psychoanalysis before Matte Blanco. From Freud to Melanie Klein psychoanalysis was strongly influenced by psychology and hardly at all by neurophysiology, as though each human psyche was a separate reality, something “emerging” unconnected with the brain. Science tells us, on the other hand, that any mental reality, independently of the materialist and spiritualist tendencies of each of us, must be solidly linked with the physical body, as long as it is alive. Thus any neurotic or psychotic pathology must have a physical cerebral equivalent and must necessarily concern the neuronic areas containing the dispositional representations, which, from the initial emotional archetypes and mental re-workings (both deriving from rhythmic-sound stylemes), to the final sensory-emotional perceptions received collect together the events of an entire life span. We must, actually, admit that it is precisely the disturbances of these neuronic areas, due to previous or present traumas, that are the ultimate cause of various pathologies. In “normal” persons, acquisition, re-working and emotion recall mechanisms take place under synapsis control, regulating single sensory-emotional experiences and allowing the necessary inter-connections of the various neuronic circuits required for their conscious level recall and automatic insertion into the subconscious level. Clearly, in pathological cases, this control ceases or is reduced, allowing anomalous, involuntary emotional perception “transfers” from conscious to subconscious levels (actually, we should already be using the term “unconscious”!). It is admittedly difficult to establish with certainty whether the outset of the pathology consists in neurophysiological damage or whether “conflict” of the psyche can cause damage by itself and only immediately afterwards be neurophysiologically reflected. In any case, it is absolutely certain that a neurophysiological response must be present.
Let us return to the work of Matte Blanco (1, 2). He defined as “modes of being of the psyche” the conscious (or consciousness), preconscious, subconscious, emergent unconscious and deep unconscious: the psyche can alternatively take part in either mode in accordance with the situation in which it finds itself. He argued that the (emotional and rational) realities present in the various modes of being can flow backwards from the last to first mode, when – during psychotic states – “internal resistance” or (for us synaptic) “barriers” break down. Furthermore, the psyche, reflected in the human mind, always follows a BI-LOGIC, simultaneously made up of an “ASYMMETRICAL logic” and “SYMMETRICAL logic”. The human mind, when it develops a rational thought at the conscious level, follows the asymmetrical logic made up of:
– a logical syllogism (formal Aristolelian logic)
– the law of cause and effect
– the concept of “major” and “minor”
– the true- false antinomic binomial etc.
– the “division” of reality into understandable and analysable parts.
When, on the other hand, it takes part, with the psyche, in the unconscious mode of being, it rejects all the above, does not follow syllogisms deriving something from something else or which imply division or difference, and follows symmetrical logic made up of:
– equality (and not derivation) of the terms of each syllogism
– the non existence of causes from which effects derive, but rather “cause in cause” effects (circularity)
– no “major” and “minor”: if A > B, at the same time B > A
– no true-false antinomy
– no rational division of reality into parts, but what is “part of a whole” is at the same time the “whole of a part”, i.e. “part” and “whole” coincide in the so-called “indivisible totality”.
Therefore the psyche, in all its modes of being, follows (asymmetrical and symmetrical) bi-logic.
Now, still following Matte Blanco, the main modality of the manifestation of pathologies of the unconscious is that of “generalisation”, where the “parts” (consisting of single rational and emotional subsystems contained in them) and the “whole” (or indivisible totality, consisting of fusion in a single block of each spatio-temporal point-event experienced by the psyche) coincide through set classes becoming gradually more general, tending to resemble (precisely by means of the generalisation principle) those defined, in mathematics, as INFINITE SETS by Dedekind.
Naturally, each of the “modes of being” of the psyche partakes of bi-logic, albeit with different asymmetrical/symmetrical relationships. In practice, it is a question of passing from the “zero symmetry” of the conscious (or consciousness) pervaded by rational thought, to “zero asymmetry” of the deep unconscious when it is not analysed rationally. Admittedly, the conscious is not necessarily always linked with rational thought: it is certainly possible to be conscious of non rational, non computational realities, which can be analysed and described (but not rationally interpreted and explained!) so that, on occasion, there can also be partial “symmetry” in the conscious. There is, moreover, as we have seen, of rational analysis of the deep unconscious by means of the principle of generalisation (infinite sets), at the limit of the computational, with the introduction of partial asymmetry.
Again, according to Matte Blanco, when generalisation of classes brings about the “infinity” condition of sets, in the mind, there is supreme contact between asymmetrical and symmetrical logic.
Matte Blanco’s extraordinary contribution (and that of the majority of his present day followers among psychoanalysts) is his experimentally finding, in the modes of being of the psyche, the existence of bi-logic, a double logic, both asymmetrical (which for us is computational, rational logic) and symmetrical (for us the equivalent of non computational, a-rational logic). The symmetrical logic he described even a special affinity with the law of spatio-temporal “non placement”, belonging to quantum physics. This law defines and describes (but does not rationally interpret, which is impossible) quantum behaviour, and that of some elementary particle properties, certain properties of matter itself (electrons, but also whole parts of molecules, when they enter the so-called “coherent correlated state”. The law of “non placement” (4) is the basis of the non computational universe.
This, of course, is no surprise for us. If our universe has a double co-present structure (both rational-computational and a-rational-non computational) it is clear that all realities participating in it (and thus also every cell, nervous formation, neuron, all synaptic activity etc.) must have this double structure, with all possible interferences and inferences between them. Thus, seeing that every psychic “pulsion” must have a neurophysiological “equivalent”, double structuring has automatic consequences for all the “appearances” which, like the psyche, for example, must be located in, or pertain to the human body, in the brain and nervous system. This leads to the admission that every “movement” of the unconscious must be related to a “movement” or modification of the connecting sequences of the single dispositional representations storing the various realities contained in them. During a psychotic phenomenon connections suddenly “go mad”, the “synaptic barriers” collapse, one dispositional representation is allowed to amalgamate with another, when they had been rigidly isolated in special neuronic circuits up to that point, and all this happens non computationally, almost as if a single coherent correlated state had been formed of molecule parts belonging to no longer “isolated” neuronic circuits. Certainly, everything must be able to return to the original state when the psychotic phenomenon ceases; normality should be reinstated. But during the phenomenon, if things happen as described by Matte Blanco, the “generalisation” of classes and sets and the formation of “infinite sets”, must necessarily apply to classes of sub-sets of neuronic dispositional representations which, though finite in number, can tend asymptotically to infinite values, aggregating, non computationally, always in different, variable sets, as far as what Matte Blanco called, as we have seen, “indivisible totality” only realised by the pure symmetrical mode, where all asymmetry (or every barrier) has fallen. To return to the “contact” between asymmetrical and symmetrical logic, a number tending to the infinity of sets of numerically finite, but still variable elements (such as dispositional representations now gradually devoid of “barriers”) is still computational, though tending to the non computational when the “indivisible totality” of purely symmetrical logic is realised.
Now, in our view, Matte Blanco’s psychoanalysis can also throw light on neurophysiological mechanisms, but it would be a good idea for psychoanalysts to modify their tendency to isolate themselves from neurophysiologists and set up “psychoanalytical neurophysiology”, in which the results of brain analysis methodology introduced by modern machinery could be extended and applied to the examination of the psyche (e.g. the electroencephalograph connected to a nuclear magnetic resonance machine – EEG+NMR or control techniques of brain metabolism [glucography with PET – Positron Emission Tomography]). Nowadays neuro-imaging research combines several investigation methods on mental processes with the aim of setting up functional neuroanatomy also valid for psychic examinations. At the end of this methodological “updating” the possibility can be hypothesised foe use of these combined methods for psychoanalytical sessions. There it should be possible to show clearly on a screen, as the psychotic state progresses, the enlargement of the brain areas concerned, caused by the progressive elimination of the delimiting action of “asymmetry”, which less and less prevents the generalised invasion of “symmetry” tending to destroy every structure.