Some applications of the idea that the brain is an organ of integration. 
   * The Nature of Consciousness 
   * The Meaning of Music 
   * Mathematics 
   * Dreams 

   * The Nature of Consciousness 
   Most organs of the body perform their evolutionarily developed functions 
without symbolizing any other bodily organs or functions. But the brain is 
designed by evolution to symbolize internal functions as well as external 
   Evolution has crafted neural structures in the brain whose functions are 
directly symbolizing other phenomena occurring within the organism and 
indirectly (via information provided by the sense organs) symbolizing 
entities and events occurring in the organism's environment. The science of 
neurology has located these structures in the brain's core, the brain stem, 
hypothalamus and the cerebral cortex. 
   The brain's devices symbolize all the continually changing states of the 
organism as they occur. In other words, the brain is a natural means of 
symbolizing the structure and state of the WHOLE living organism (thus the 
"phantom limb" effect described in Chapter 3) in its full context. The 
brain's possession of these devices within its structure enables it to 
manage the life of the organism in such a way that the cognitive and 
physical behavior and the chemical reactions indispensable for survival can 
be maintained continually. 
   The brain also contains devices that integrate into a second-level 
abstraction both those symbolic structures which map the organism and those 
which map its environment. This second-level abstraction symbolizes that the 
organism, as mapped in the brain, is involved in interacting with an 
environment, also mapped in the brain. This representation occurs in neural 
structures such as the thalamus and the cingulate cortices. 
   This second-level abstraction presents, within the mental process, the 
information that the organism is the owner of the mental process itself. It 
explicitly answers the implicit questions: "What is happening?" and "To whom 
is it happening?" The sense of a self in the act of knowing is thus created, 
and this sense of self forms the basis for the first-person perspective that 
characterizes the conscious mind. 
   Many biologists have tacitly assumed that when they have understood the 
operation of each molecule in a nerve structure, they will understand the 
operation of the mind. But the paradigms of computer science make it clear 
that this assumption is wrong. After all, a computer is built from a 
completely known arrangement of components whose operation is understood in 
minute detail. Yet it is often impossible to prove in advance that even a 
simple computer program will calculate its desired result or, for that 
matter, that the program will ever even terminate. The behavior of a 
computer program cannot be deduced from an examination of the circuits 
etched into the computer's physical components. Likewise, the functions of 
consciousness cannot be deduced from an examination of the molecular 
structure of nerve cells. The foundation for the sense of self does not lie 
in the functioning of individual nerve cells, but resides within those 
abstractions created by brain structures that integrate, through time, the 
continuity of the organism and its interactions with its environment. 
   Some critics reply: "But how is it possible to move from such a 
consciousness of self to the sense of ownership of one's thoughts, the sense 
that one's thoughts are constructed in one's own perspective?" 
   What they fail to realize, and what prevents them from understanding this 
thesis, is that no such "movement" is necessary. These symbolic structures 
ARE the consciousness of self. 
   Some observers fear that by pinning down its physical origins, something 
as precious and dignified as the human mind will be downgraded or vanish 
entirely. But explaining the origins and workings of the mind by reference 
to the functioning of biological tissue will not do away with the mind. On 
the contrary, the awe we have for the mind will be extended to this amazing 
structure of the organism and to the complex integrative functions that 
enable such a structure to generate the mind. In understanding the mind at 
this deeper level, we can see it as nature's most complex set of biological 
phenomena rather than as an unknown mystery. The mind will survive 
explanation, just as the rose's perfume, its molecular structure precisely 
identified, will still smell as sweet. An explanation does not erase the 
reality it explains. 

   For more thoughts on this subject, see: 
    "Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology" by Ayn Rand 
    "The Feeling of What Happens" by Antonio Damasio 
    "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" by Nathaniel Branden (Chapter 1, Part 2) 

   * The Meaning of Music 
   Extracted from the essay "Art and Cognition" by Ayn Rand, which appeared 
in the April, May, and June 1971 issues of THE OBJECTIVIST: 
   "Music is a certain succession of sounds produced by periodic vibrations. 
Musical tones heard in a certain kind of succession are integrated by the 
human ear and brain into a new cognitive experience, into an auditory 
entity: a melody. The essence of musical perception is mathematical: the 
consonance or dissonance of harmonies depends on the ratios of the 
frequencies of their tones. The brain can integrate a ratio of one to two, 
for instance, but not of eight to nine. Music offers man the singular 
opportunity to reenact, on the adult level, the primary process of his 
method of cognition: the automatic integration of sense data into an 
intelligible, meaningful entity. To a conceptual consciousness, it is a 
unique form of rest and reward. A composition may demand the active 
alertness needed to resolve complex mathematical relationships--or it may 
deaden the brain by means of monotonous simplicity--or it may obliterate the 
process by a jumble of sounds mathematically-physiologically impossible to 
integrate, and thus turn into noise. The other arts create a physical object 
and the psycho-epistemological process goes from the perception to 
conceptual understanding to appraisal to emotion. The pattern of the process 
involved in music is: perception--emotion--appraisal--conceptual 
understanding. Music is experienced as if it had the power to reach man's 
emotions directly. It is possible to observe introspectively what one's mind 
does while listening to music: it evokes subconscious material that seems to 
flow haphazardly, in brief, random snatches, like the progression of a 
dream. But, in fact, this flow is selective and consistent: the emotional 
meaning of the subconscious material corresponds to the emotions projected 
by the music. The subconscious material has to flow because no single image 
can capture the meaning of the musical experience, the mind needs a 
succession of images, it is groping for that which they have in common, for 
an emotional abstraction. Man cannot experience an actually causeless and 
objectless emotion. When music induces an emotional state without external 
object, its only other possible object is the state of actions of his own 
consciousness. If a given process of musical integration taking place in a 
man's brain resembles the cognitive processes that produce and/or accompany 
a certain emotional state, he will recognize it, in effect, physiologically, 
then intellectually." 

   * Mathematics 
   Douglas Hofstadter: "I feel that mathematics, more than any other 
discipline, studies the fundamental, pervasive patterns of the universe. 
However, as I have gotten older, I have come to see that there are inner 
mental patterns underlying our ability to conceive of mathematical ideas, 
universal patterns in human minds that make them receptive not only to the 
patterns of mathematics but also to abstract regularities of all sorts in 
the world. Indeed, how could anyone hope to approach the concept of beauty 
without deeply studying the nature of formal patterns and their 
organizations and relationships to Mind? How can anyone fascinated by beauty 
fail to be intrigued by the notion of a 'magical formula' behind it all, 
chimerical though the idea certainly is? And in this day and age, how can 
anyone fascinated by creativity and beauty fail to see in computers the 
ultimate tool for exploring their essence?" 

   * Dreams 
   Go to a small stream chuckling and burbling over a stony bed. If you 
listen carefully on a quiet day you will hear soft sibilant sounds as though 
little people are whispering together quietly. (They are sometimes referred 
to as water sprites.) What your ears hear are sounds just on the verge of 
meaningful words, but not quite comprehensive enough to be sensible. What 
your mind is aware of are the results of your brain's attempts to integrate 
those tiny whispering sounds into meaningful speech. Your brain is an organ 
of integration, and it is just trying to do its job, even though it isn't 
receiving enough material to do it adequately. Because its input is 
inadequate to the recognition of speech, its output never gets beyond 
auditory nonsense. 
   Something very similar happens when you dream. While you are sleeping, 
nerve cells (especially those in the brain stem) fire randomly, and the 
upper levels of your brain attempt to integrate those tiny inputs into 
something that has cognitive significance. The result, which you are aware 
of as a dream, is a bizarre combination of random nonsense and seemingly 
meaningful fragments of thought. These are the water sprites of your mind. 
   That your dreams sometimes contain some meaning--especially some 
personally relevant meaning--results from the fact that while you are 
sleeping your brain is also working on conceptual material that is generated 
during your waking hours when you are dealing with the usual activities of 
your life. Thus your dreams can seem influenced by your basic goals and 
desires for the same reason that your waking contemplation of the world is 
influenced by your basic goals and desires. 
   Friedrich Kekule was struggling with the problem of explaining inter-
atomic carbon bonds. In his dream he saw the molecules as snakes biting 
their tails. He woke up with the realization that the carbon atoms come 
together into 6-atom loops. The snakes came from the random firings, the 
configuration of the snakes came from information fed by his conscious mind 
into his subconscious mind during his waking hours. 

   Kekule: "Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the 
truth. But let us beware of publishing our dreams before they have been put 
to the proof by the waking understanding." 

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