The Relationship of Mind and Matter
In some circumstances, one might have heard people saying “mind over matter” which they try to associate with using the mind or brain (that is, mental processing is used) instead of letting the physical or material aspect to prevail. It is in this light that the article “A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter” by David Bohm will be discussed in this paper. It aims to give an analytical critique of Bohm’s attempt to reconcile these two seemingly unrelated, if not totally opposing, concepts: the mind and the matter.
Bohm suggests some points that should be considered in his argument that the mind and the matter are related, if not equal or the same. First, in the argument of disisolating the mind and the matter, he illustrates that the mind which undergoes a process of thought is essentially reflected as the “activity to which a given structure of information may give rise” (Bohm 278). In this case, the mind is seen to be the underlying cause of every action or reflex. A human being’s mental process is not necessarily taken into an isolated case because in human thought, there is an action done. The thought cannot be taken in singularity because it “includes an involuntary and essentially unconscious process of hormones, heart-beat, and neurochemicals of various kinds, as well as physical tensions and movements” (Bohm 279). He means that in every mental process, there is an involvement of several various physical and material consequences.
Second, he also provides that information is a vital tool in relating the aspects of the mind and the matter. Two points: one is that “there is a kind of active information that is simultaneously physical and mental in nature” (Bohm 279). He suggests that, in some cases, there are active information that are unequivocal—meaning, information can be both a mental process and a material process. Information can be taken as mental and physical in an equal manner. He further connotes that the two sides are “inseparable, in the sense that information contained in thought […] is at the same time a related neurophysiological, chemical, and physical activity” (Bohm 279). The second point in his use of information, on the other hand, is that it could serve as a “the link or bridge between the two sides” (Bohm, 279). In contrast to the first point given, the information serves as another sort of entity that creates a link and connects the mental to the physical, or the physical to the mental.
Third, he points out further that subtlety, or the level of subtlety among information, is a significant key in relating the mind and the matter. He defines subtlety in terms of its Latin root “subtexere,” meaning “finely woven,” and metaphorically uses it to relate to human thought as “as a series of more and more closely woven nets” (Bohm 280). The idea goes to show that the more finely woven characterizing the subtler (mental) processes is, the less closely woven are the physical processes. He contains the idea that “this possibility of going beyond any specifiable level of subtlety is the essential feature on which the possibility of intelligence is based” (Bohm 280). This is grounded on his suggestion that the more subtle (or the mental side) “both unfold and enfold” the less subtle (or the physical side) (Bohm 280). This idea could also be reversed in the sense that “each mental side in turn becomes a physical side as we move in the direction of greater subtlety” (Bohm 280). These points may be considered in terms of linearity but of reversible suppositions.
Fourth, in relation to the Quantum Theory, Bohm makes an analogy of the quantum potential to be taken as “as information whose activity is to guide the ‘dance’ of the electrons” (280). The analogy is not only limited in how the electrons behave in relation to how the mind behaves, but the similarity extends to the value which the levels of subtlety will reach. He rationalizes that “that which we experience as mind, in its movement through various levels of subtlety, will, in a natural way ultimately move the body by reaching the level of the quantum potential and of the ‘dance’ of the particles” (Bohm 281). He perceives that there is a mind-like quality even in particle physics wherein each seemingly autonomous level will always have to partake a whole, and similarly, will take part “in the whole and in every part” (Bohm 281). He concludes that “all of this implies a thoroughgoing wholeness, in which mental and physical sides participate very closely in each other […] Thus, there is no real division between mind and matter” (Bohm 282).
Personally, if I am to take Bohm’s arguments point by point, I would say that there are some ideas which I believe are plausible enough in proving that there is a relationship between the mind and the matter. I agree that there are certain characteristics that intensify the argument. For one, the notion which involves the mental process in producing a physical manifestation is true. It happens in reality. In the first point that is mentioned above, the mind implicates a physical action most of the time.
Further, I also agree in his point saying that information is a tool that connects the mind and the matter, as this further explains his first point. Without information, there will be no mental process that which produces a tangible effect.
However, I would like to point out that the generative conclusion in relating the mind and the matter over the point of subtlety may be out of context. I think that there is an inequivalent representation in this case. How do we justify the perception of subtler or more closely woven things to be the mental processes, and the less subtle or less closely woven things to be the material or physical processes? I mean, on what grounds do we take these suppositions?
Also, we should understand the analogous representation of the quantum theory in terms of reality. Are they really analogous? Bohm’s assumption that “in some sense a rudimentary mind-like quality is present even at the level of particle physics” was not proven (282). I am thinking about the “mind-like quality” of the electrons to be their intrinsic behavior based on learnings from the natural sciences. However, I could not fuse the notion of describing a naturally-occurring phenomenon among quantum particles in terms of having a “mind-like quality.” I think the opposite may be justifiable; that is, the mind performs in the way that quantum electrons does because it is, in the strictest sense, composed of electrons.
Bohm, David. “A new theory of the relationship of mind and matter.” Philosophical Psychology 3 (1990): 271-286.