Skip to main content

Explanatory Gap

of Brain, Mind and....Consciousness

Explanatory Gap Home
More Explanatory Gap
Human Consciousness
Personal Identity
Time..Principle of Cycles
Qualia (Mental Qualities)
Mental Causation
Language and Mind
About Us
Contact Us
Site Map
Humans have the cognitive capacity and ability to create desired physical effects.
Mental Causation

"The concept of mental causation plays a central role in how we think of the mind and of human agency. Traditionally the problem of mental causation has been that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with the body, a physical substance. Many philosophers these days reject immaterial minds, but the problem of mental causation has not gone away. Now the focus is on how mental properties can be causally  relevant to bodily behavior, how the mental can cause what it does qua mental."
Source: Robb, David, Heil, John, "Mental Causation", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 


Downward Causality in Mathematics


Hofstadter thinks our minds appear to us to determine the world by way of "downward causality", which refers to a situation where a cause-and-effect relationship in a system gets flipped upside-down. Hofstadter claims this happens in the proof of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.


“Merely from knowing the formula's meaning, one can infer its truth or falsity without any effort to derive it in the old-fashioned way, which requires one to trudge methodically "upwards" from the axioms. This is not just peculiar; it is astonishing. Normally, one cannot merely look at what a mathematical conjecture says and simply appeal to the content of that statement on its own to deduce whether the statement is true or false.”  


Hofstadter claims a similar "flipping around of causality" appears to happen in minds possessing self-consciousness. The mind perceives itself as the cause of certain feelings, ("I" am the source of my desires), while according to popular scientific models, feelings and desires are strictly caused by the interactions of neurons. (pp.169-170)



Placebo Effect Produces Real Painkillers (26 August 2005)

“A study from the University of Michigan (U-M) has provided the first direct evidence that endorphins - the brain's own pain-fighting chemicals - do play a role in the phenomenon known as the placebo effect.
It appears that just thinking that a medicine will relieve pain is enough to prompt the brain to release these natural painkillers and that this response does indeed correspond with a reduction in feelings of pain. Previous studies have shown that the brain reacts physically when a person is given a sham pain treatment, but the new study is the first to pinpoint a specific brain chemistry mechanism for a pain-related placebo effect.” It further states: "This deals another serious blow to the idea that the placebo effect is a purely psychological, not physical, phenomenon," says the study's lead author Jon-Kar Zubieta. "We were able to see that the endorphin system was activated in pain-related areas of the brain, and that activity increased when someone was told they were receiving a medicine to ease their pain. They then reported feeling less pain. The mind-body connection is quite clear."  Source
Human consciousness / mind and the brain's neural network with its related nervous system appear to be interdependent and interactive processes and states that to this day are virtually unexplored and unexplained as to their relationships, functions and processes, creating a gap of misunderstanding and verification. This is often referred to as the mind-body dichotomy (or problem).
If, and how physical neuronal biochemical substances and processes create coherent informational processes that become emergent conscious experiences, mental characteristics, intentions etc. and how, in reverse direction, conscious informational processes and states (beliefs, intentions, desires, placebo response, fear, stress etc), affect the biochemical substance of the physical bodyis not fully understood.  Information, although not always seemingly meaningful, can be casual.
What can best be referred to as abstract "forces of human intelligence" are aspects of information that take the form of intentional mental characteristics (causal qualities) ultimately causing human mental and physical behavioral phenomena.