Commentary 2 on TA1 'Is the mind real ?'
16 July 1997

(Conventions and abbreviations: TA Target Article;
C Commentary; R Response; N Short Note;
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by Dimiter G Chakalov


An effort has been made at examining the basic notion of the zero-reference method, the undefinable matrix. Six possible examples for the undefinable matrix have been outlined, along with the idea of the putative source of both matter and mind, denoted with "Universal Mind".

On Fri, 27 Jun 1997 15:13:15 EDT, in a paper entitled "IS THE MIND REAL?", Herbert F. J. Muller <MDMU@MUSICA.MCGILL.CA> suggested the idea of a zero-reference method for studying the mind-brain and mind-reality relations, based on an indefinable encompassing matrix, which is the source, center, and envelope of human experience. Specifically, he wrote:

"[10] (B) A necessary and sufficient condition for avoiding this problem (of belief in mind-independently pre-existing, pre-established, pre-structured, or pre-fabricated, and perhaps even pre-verbalized, reality and truth) is to consider that all mental structures crystallize (and are constructed) within an unstructured and therefore *undefinable matrix* (emphasis added - D.C.), which can be used as a kind of zero-reference point."

And also:

"[51] Theories dealing with the relation of mind to brain, and to reality generally, should be examined with help of a zero-reference point of view, which I suggest is better suited for a contradiction-free analysis than other epistemologies. Such analysis ought to be a background consideration in objective studies (and conversely: the access to the mind-brain and mind-reality relations could be a touchstone for epistemological theories)."

I would like to make an effort at examining the basic notion of the zero-reference method: the undefinable matrix. This task will be pursued within an ontological framework of a *tri-component Universe*: physical world, mental world constituted of all mental reflections/qualia from the physical world, and the Universal Mind (Margenau, 1984, Ch. 10), which could be regarded as the source of knowledge and comprehension of both physical and mental worlds.

I believe the Universal Mind involves the undefinable matrix introduced in the paper by Herbert Muller, and, to complete the task stated in the title, the first step should be the study of the undefinable matrix itself.

Generally, the final aim of these efforts is to reveal substantial evidences supporting the well-known metaphysical idea that the physical world and mental world emerge from one common source, the Universal Mind (also denoted with 'pure consciousness'), and therefore are two complemental emanations from this primordial essence. Hence the Universal Mind could be regarded both as the source of cognition and as the source of matter: an *onta* (Margenau, 1984, Ch. 10) rooted on the quantum vacuum, if we look at it from its physical prospective. If correctly formulated, this framework could help us elaborate a *complete* model of mind-brain and mind-reality relations, which would incorporate all evidences supporting the two *complemental*, not alternative, approaches, materialism and dualism: we could be 'plus catholique que le Pape' in examining data supporting, for example, biological naturalism and, by the same token, other evidences that run in favor of dualistic interactionism. Also, it cannot be ruled out that such epistemology could be of some help to quantum gravity (Isham, 1991, pp. 101-104; Isham, 1993) and quantum cosmology, particularly in solving the problem of fixing the unique initial quantum state for the Universe (Hartle, 1997, p. 14): the undefinable matrix, being a genuine animate object living in some atemporal smoky-dragon state (Davies, 1995, p. 173), could be for quantum cosmology what the human observer is for quantum theory.

Let's try to make the first step: Do we have substantial arguments in favor of the undefinable matrix?

To avoid any misunderstandings and pitfalls on this very shaky and unexplored path, I believe we need to expose and to solve the main difficulty of this approach: our communication and understanding of what we could say in this discussion. For if we do not find a common language to understand each other, I'm afraid this very important and needed discussion would either vanish, or would branch into many barely related topics, much like the case with the current theories of consciousness, as could be seen at http://ling.ucsc.edu/~chalmers/mind.html

Can we reach an agreement on the very procedure, or rather algorithm for revealing arguments for the undefinable matrix? For if it is some sort of unspeakable cognitive 'common denominator', some 'most general Platonic idea' from which all concept emerge, then how could we possibly speak about it? Any words or other nominative units that could be used to describe the undefinable matrix will just reflect a 'shadow' from this 'most general Platonic idea', and cannot cover all possible cognitive explications from it. (There is a striking similarity with the two types of measurements, in von Neumann's terminology: the second type measurement would resemble the undefinable matrix as an unbroken quantum wave, while the first type is very similar to what is considered to be the collapse of the wave function, as a projection or rather explication of one point-like 'shadow' from the undefinable matrix. Same analogy could be drawn for the decohered histories (Hartle, 1997, p. 9), I believe.)

Perhaps we could elaborate an agreement on the algorithm for suggesting arguments for the undefinable matrix if we take into account the inverse-proportional relation between the content and volume of concepts: the bigger the volume, the smaller the content. A concept of, say, 'chair', has bigger content and smaller volume than the concept of 'furniture', for example. A very general and abstract concept like 'thing' covers almost anything we could think of, and has minimum intrinsic content. The limit of this trend would be some unspeakable concept that has infinite volume and zero intrinsic content. It will cover all possible concepts, emerged in a dipole-like structure: we could comprehend the concept of "chair" because we can think of something that is "non-chair", and with respect to which the concept of "chair" makes sense. In the case of the undefinable matrix, the ultimate Platonic idea, we cannot formulate any concept that is *not* pre-included in it, and therefore we just cannot speak on the meaning of the undefinable matrix. It is one single meta-concept, or rather *the meta-concept* which involves all possible concepts, and there is nothing 'outside' the meta-concept with respect to which we could describe it. Well, I'm sure this sounds very familiar.

Given all the differences between our brains, their structural-functional organization, our life experience, language, culture, habits, it is simply impossible to explain *any* act of communication without the undefinable matrix, as some universal cognitive 'common denominator', some unspeakable meta-language shared by all human beings. Alternatively, if we try to reduce the undefinable matrix to some set of its concrete explications, to some *finite* number of explications, and hence to model it with information processes, then we would face an inevitable restriction from thermodynamics: any encoding of information leads to decreasing of the entropy of the memory substrate. Given an approximate rate of 10^9 bytes per second (Stanley Klein, private communication), there would be no problem to locate some brain tissue that is constantly decreasing its entropy. If this were the case, how come we still cannot locate the engrams of Lashley? Not to mention the peculiar stability of our cognitive structures during our lifetime, the cross-modality transfer, and many other unsolved mysteries of the human memory.

Let's try to find some examples for the undefinable matrix.

Case 1. At-the-tip-of-the-tongue effect.

Sometimes we cannot remember some name or telephone number, and are scanning our memory with the feeling that what we need to find is just "at the tip of the tongue". Once we find it, this very clear and unspeakable feeling disappears, and we say "aha, I got it". (I believe this effect is well-known and widely explored by people practicing dowsing and ESP, but let's confine ourselves to what is considered to be "ordinary" mental phenomena.)

Case 2. Translation between languages.

In German, there is a very fine saying:

"Dem geschenkten Gaul sieht man nicht ins Maul."

In English, it reads:

"Beggars can't be choosers."

We could understand the meaning of the two sayings because we have "translated" the very sense of its undefinable matrix from one language to another. The process of selection of an adequate expression takes place entirely within some unspeakable cognitive 'common denominator', which is just the undefinable matrix. It is actually one Platonic idea explicated through two sets of entirely different words. The latter certainly have their neuronal representations in our brains, but can we locate *physically* their undefinable matrix? I don't think so. The way I see it is that the very concepts of space and time are not quite applicable to the undefinable matrix (Sheldrake, 1989, p. 306), and "the smearing and conflating the space and time" (Davies, 1995, p. 191) is perhaps a better way to think of the physical (if any) nature of undefinable matrix. These ideas are certainly not original, and I believe could be traced back to Raymond Ruyer's 'potentiel' and 'domaine trans-spatial' (Ruyer, 1946, p. 94; Ruyer, 1952, p. 65 and p. 188).

Case 3. Creation of new links between concepts.

Creative thinking is a very clear example for operating with the undefinable matrix. I cannot offer something creative to the readers of these lines, so let's examine two jokes:

"The acoustics in this theatre are fantastic."

"And I shall call that creature a rhinoceros," said Adam, pointing to a rhinoceros.
"But why call it that?" asked Eve.
"Because," snapped Adam, "it obviously looks like a rhinoceros - that's why!".

One could speculate that these jokes have emerged first as some at-the-tip-of-the-tongue feeling (cf. Case 1), and then have been dressed into words, like in Case 2 above. It is what we call insight, I believe. The real mystery is the associative link that we can establish *on demand* between the labels like "rhinoceros" and their Platonic idea.

Case 4. Creation of new concepts.

The concepts of, say, space shuttle or web page would be entirely incomprehensible for a person living in the last century, I suppose. From her/his reference frame, these entirely new ideas would have been "the unknown unknown", or "things that we don't know that we do not know". What is the cognitive pool, or the Noetic world from which the entirely new concepts emerge? As John A Wheeler put it, "Time is God's way to keep things from happening all at once" (Private communication). I believe we could bravely bet on the undefinable matrix, again. Currently, it looks like we do have "things that we don't know that we do not know" to deal with, at




Case 5. Mental rotation.

Imagine a cube made of white plastic material with a 3 cm rib, painted blue, which is cut into 27 little cubes with a 1 cm rib. How many little cubes will have three blue sides, how many will have two, one or none?

When the reader builds the mental image of that cube and provides the answers, that which "rotated" the cube in his/her mind and counted the painted and the white sides is precisely the mental action of the human self. The mental image itself is based on an unspeakable undefinable matrix of a cube *per se*, thanks to which we can build some concrete mental image of a cube, to rotate it in our mind, and to count its blue sides.

Well, we can, but we may not do it. It is a matter of our free choice. (Thank God, I don't have to go into this subject!)

Case 6. The cognitive cycle of Ulric Neisser.

This case needs special considerations (Neisser, 1976), and I will highly appreciate any comments on how one could suggest any explanation, other than some based on the undefinable matrix embedded into the flow of our subjective time (Davies, 1995, p. 193 and Ch. 13). I'd love to have feedback on this point.

To sum up, I believe the best evidence for the existence of the undefinable matrix would be if the readers of these lines have comprehended what I've been trying to say about it. It is certainly very difficulty to think *about* that with which we think, *by* that with which we think. The undefinable matrix in action, again! What else?

As for those who automatically reject any possibility for the undefinable matrix, I would like to refer to a story from the not too distant past. In 1772, on the occasion of the fall of meteorites, the French Academy of Sciences adopted a resolution categorically rejecting such anomalous phenomena. The obvious reason had been that rocks cannot fall from the sky simply because there are no rocks there. In our case, having no reasonable explanation for nearly 99 per cent of the stuff in our Universe, we better keep our mind open to all possibilities.



Davies P. About Time. Einstein's Unfinished Revolution. Penguin Books: London, 1995.

Hartle J. Quantum Cosmology: Problems for the 21st Century? Available in PS format from LANL e-print, http://xxx.lanl.gov , gr-qc/9701022, 17 pp., January 16, 1997.

Isham C. Conceptual and Geometrical Problems in Quantum Gravity. Lectures presented at the 1991 Schladming Winter School. Imperial/TP/90-91/14, March 1991.

Isham C. God, Time and the Creation of the Universe. In: Explorations in Science & Theology. RSA: London, 1993, pp. 55-60.

Margenau H. The Miracle of Existence. Ox Bow Press: Woodbridge (CT), 1984.

Neisser U. Cognition and Reality. Principles and Implications of Cognitive Psychology. Freeman: San Francisco, 1976.

Ruyer R. Element de Psycho-biologie. Paris: P.U.F., 1946.

Ruyer R. Philosophie de la Valeur. Paris: Colin, 1952.

Sheldrake R. The Presence of the Past. Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature. New York: Vintage, 1989, p. 306: "Second, the assumption of the hypothesis of formative causation that morphic resonance takes place only from the past may be wrong. It may emanate from the future as well, or even instead."

URL: http://www.mcgill.ca/douglas/fdg/kjf/1-C2CHAK.htm