Chapter 7: The Mind
I use a relatively broad definition to encompass the mind — this shall simply be an entity which “processes information.” The opposite and complementary classification shall then be referred to here as “mechanical function,” or operations that do not involve the processing of information. Like the self/instinct relationship, adding mental and mechanical function together address “the whole,” or in either case, “all reality.” With mind defined as “that which processes information,” mechanics takes the default role of “all other aspects of existence.”
For example, consider the operation of the now obsolete “mechanical typewriter.” When a letter is pressed on such a machine, an arm is forced to rise up to strike the paper. This is defined to be purely “mechanical,” or “non-mental,” because information is not “processed” here — a mechanical typewriter does not have an associated “mind.” Pressing a key on a digital device, however, does not “directly,” or “mechanically,” cause an associated result. Here information from pressing a key must first be “processed through a mind” in order for associated operations to occur.
Also consider a plant that tends to produce more flowers as the temperature increases. If this plant is structured such that warmth increases flower production when other such conditions are met in a manner which is “direct,” then it does not have “a mind” in this regard. Like a star or a molecule, this plant functions “through purely mechanical mechanisms.” But if sensory information about temperature must first be processed through an intermediate structure so that instructions may then be given to cause the production of more flowers, then the plant does indeed have “a mind” in this regard.
Under this “plant scenario,” also consider a valve that is set up so that an increase in temperature would open it, and thus help facilitate more flowering. Though the operation of this valve might be thought of as “processed information regarding temperature,” this must actually be defined as mechanical rather than mental function. It’s necessary for this information processing to be “more dynamic” — it must involve the potential for instructions to be produced which might then be interpreted such that associated results may be initiated.
From this definition I suspect that insects have “minds” that help in their operation, but that microbes, plants and fungi function exclusively through “mechanical instruments.” Furthermore when there is a collective processing of information in a group dynamic, then this will illustrate mental function as well. A single “collective mind” will exist for a group of computers, bees, or a crowd of rioting people, to the extent that the associated “individual minds” process information for group function as a whole.
Once a mind “processes information,” operations might then be implemented which are based upon the result of this processing. There are various things that the mind of a given computer might do once it processes information, such display a specific screen image or alter the fuel to air ratio of an engine. As for the human mind, however, “muscle function” is one clear instrument that it seems to have at its disposal. Muscles that drive the heart, an epileptic seizure, and speech, for three examples, all seem to be instructed somewhat by “the human mind.”