I struggled with the problem of the relation of the mind to the body for decades. When at last I felt as though I had finally figured it out, I had a hard time seeing in retrospect what the problem had been.
Panpsychism, holism, hylemorphism, and control system theory had all helped. But they did not quite suffice. For, how do the trillions of bits of awareness that, on panpsychism, constitute my body, combine together to make *my* awareness? This is the binding problem of cognitive philosophy: how is a report from the heel bound up with a report from the visual cortex in a single moment of experience? On holism, the whole subvenes and precedes its parts, which is cool so far as it goes: the whole is not reduced to the parts, nor are the parts reduced to the whole, so that the notion agrees with our mereological experience. But how does my mind – the whole, presumably (at least now and then) – affect its parts, the little minds that (on panpsychism) together make up my body (and for that matter the other subsidiary components of the psyche)? Both the bottom up and top down causal vectors looked problematic.
It is easy to see *that* the lower levels of a control system hierarchy behave in pretty good accord with the acts of the higher levels, and vice versa. Control theory can shed light on *how* they do that. But it is not easy to see *why* they do that. Again, hylemorphism integrates final and formal causation with the material and efficient causal sorts, but it doesn’t help with the binding problem.
Dualism seemed like a step back. For one thing, it demolished the tidy, elegant, deeply satisfying and intellectually parsimonious integrations accomplished by hylemorphism, panpsychism, and holism, by splitting the ontological integrity they had achieved into radically disparate categories: extended things and mental things (or (depending on the dualist scheme) material and ideal, or concrete and abstract, or real and apparent).
Things fell into place when I realized that I had been treating the state of the mind and the state of the brain at time t(n) as aspects of the same thing. When I finally got it through my thick head that facts are artifacts of acts, it dawned on me that the state of the mind at t(n) influences the state of the brain a moment later, at t(n+1), and vice versa. Ditto for all the components both of mind and of body. Thus the state of my body and the state of my mind at t(n) are states of *disparate things.* What feels to my mind right now like the state of my body right now is actually a feeling of the way my body was a moment ago. And vice versa: what feels to my body right now like the state of my mind right now is actually a feeling of the way my mind was a moment ago.
Notice first that, as still under construction, the present moment of any entity is inapprehensible to any other entity. As being yet still incompletely specified, and therefore not yet quite definite, *it does not yet actually exist to exert influence.* It cannot be known (or even known of) by any other until its process of becoming is completed, and it is passed, and wholly in act.
Notice then also that “moment” – the duration of n – is undefined. Perhaps it is a second or two long; perhaps only a femtosecond. That is not pertinent to the ontological distinctions being here drawn. It seems likely that different sorts of entities have different characteristic periods of quantal evolution, different characteristic durations, intervals, times, epochs, moments. Perhaps moments of some sorts of entities last many millennia. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter.
Notice finally that while the state of my mind at t(n) is a huge influence upon the state of my body at t(n+1), there are many others, urged by other completed events of becoming – from events passed, from its past – both within and without the body (e.g., the burp incipient at t(n) and the gunshot in the next room at the same instant, neither of which could have been accounted for by the mind at t(n)). They affect the state of my body at t(n+1), which in turn influences the state of my mind at t(n+2).
In short, the state of an entity is a function of events in its past and of its operations upon those data. Thus the past of the body and of the mind influence the character of the present moment of the mind; the character of the present moment of the mind in turn influences the future both of the body and of the mind. Put differently: the past of the mind is integrated in the present both of the body and of the mind; the past of the body is integrated in the present both of the mind and of the body.
To complete the picture – or, at any rate, this painfully abbreviated version of the picture – qualia are aspects of present moments of becoming. Phenomenal experience per se is what it is like to become.
This scheme smells a bit dualistic, in that it has the occasions of mind and body cooking alongside each other and disparate, the past and present of each influencing the futures of both. But it isn’t. Rather, it is a hierarchical network, in which each node is an integration and synecdoche – and thus, both a resonance and a hologram – of its whole past. Think of the king and his subjects: they cook along together, disparate, and the past and present moments of each influence the futures of both. But they are fundamentally the same sorts of being, and so there is no difficulty in seeing *how* they influence each other.
No more difficulty than we have in explaining causal influence per se, anyway.
Which looks like a lot of difficulty, prima facie. But which may not be that difficult when we dig into it. A topic for another post, perhaps. Suffice for now to point out that entities can be concretely actual, and indeed material, without being massive – or, by the same token, energetic.