Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Modeling Material
Subjective & Objective Models, Reality
The Concept of Sub-Models
The Physical & Mental Sub-Models
The Mental Model
Physical & Mental Model Languages
Physico-Mental Model
The Concept of "Mind"
Free Will
Implications of the Tripartite Model
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography


We are continuing to approach the point at which we can discuss more clearly the "mind-body problem," along with the "free will vs. determinism problem." There is one remaining awareness to have about the nature of these models (the Subjective Model and the Objective Model). It has to do with what the models are "made of."

Remember that we said that any model is made of something, or some things, arranged in a particular way, such that the relationships between those things (i.e., between the "parts" of the model) allow one to predict things about the relationships between the parts of the thing being modeled. So a model car may be made out of plastic and metal, and how those things are put together allow one to know what the "real" car is actually like, even if one has never seen one. And how a picture is put together allows one to develop beliefs about what that which is pictured would really look like if one were to observe it directly. And how words are put into sentences allows one to imagine what is being described. So the "material" out of which something is modeled is arranged (drawn, sculpted, spoken, imagined, remembered, etc.) in a specific way.

But when we are talking about beliefs, what is this "material"? There are perhaps many different kinds of this material, but is there anything we can say about all of it?

It has to be something that can be experienced, that is, can be a part of one's subjective experience, either directly perceived, or imagined, or remembered.

(Thus, we are at present talking about the mental world, not the physical world containing the patterns of enhanced synaptic connections in the brain or whatever is going on in the brain "correlated with" subjective experience and modeling.)

Remember, subjective experience is the "raw material" of all modeling for the Subjective Model. It is all you have to work with. It cannot be something that you have never experienced, can never experience, and have no ability to imagine. For instance, a person completely blind from birth, who has never seen anything, cannot have a visual model of something (at least in our usual meaning of the word "visual"). The person could still have beliefs (models) about the world, but they would not be visual models. They would be, as examples, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and/or verbal (linguistic) models, "made out of" those subjective experiences, or the memories or "images" of them.

It should be apparent that the above has to be true of our subjective models of our subjective experience. My belief that the chair will hold me if I sit in it consists of predictions as to what my subjective experience will be if I sit down in it. Such predictions are imaginations of subjective experience to come (either potentially or actually), and imaginations themselves are subjective experiences. So models of, or beliefs about, subjective experience are made out of that which exists within subjective experience.

(A memory is a model of what one would experience if one went back in time and relived the experience, and an imagined experience is a prediction of what one would experience if the imagination were true. The important point is that models of subjective experience are made out of the material of subjective experience, that is, subjective experience itself. And that is because all we ever experience is subjective experience. That is all we have to work with.)

We need to clarify a possibly confusing part of our terminology. We have considered those situations in which a person did not know that he or she had a particular belief until he or she was surprised as something turned out not to be as expected. What was expected is what we are considering the belief to be. So prior to that surprise, it would seem that the belief (expectation) was not manifesting itself in any detectable manner.

But we can go further than that. Obviously, a person has an extremely large number of identifiable beliefs that are in no way manifesting themselves at the current time. I could ask you a question right now about your personal life, such as where you lived as a child, whereupon your belief constituting the answer to the question would become apparent (as you remembered some things about your childhood). What can we say about the "material" out of which that belief is made prior to its becoming active? We could say, perhaps, that the belief existed in the brain in the form of a network of enhanced synaptic connections, and thus with increased potential for becoming active, but there would be no manifestation of that belief within subjective experience. Nevertheless, if we were indeed to be working only with the operation of neurons in the brain, it is not likely we would find anything new added, beyond the activation of a potential, when the belief became active such as to be identifiable within subjective experience. It is not as if inactive and active beliefs are made out of different "material."

When someone imagines a particular situation to exist somewhere, he or she will be using the material of subjective experience, such as visual images. When we are talking about the beliefs that are being manifested by whether or not current subjective experience is occurring "as expected," we are essentially talking about whether current subjective experience is "matching" expected subjective experience. We can make the assumption that current subjective experience is being matched to the model of subjective experience that is being activated by the ongoing subjective experience, and so that expectation, again, would most reasonably be considered to be subjective experience, or the "material" out of which subjective experience is "made." Ongoing subjective experience is matched against a model of subjective-experience-as-expected. So if the model of subjective experience is actually manifesting itself, the "material" out of which the model is made is that of subjective experience. What I am looking at is matched against my image, being activated at that point in time, of what I expect to be seen there.

So, again, we can say that the "material" out of which the Subjective Model is made is subjective experience, which may either be potential or actual.

But what about the Objective Model? Right away we can see that what we are trying to model may be things that we are assuming we can never subjectively experience (like things happening on the sun, atoms, radio waves, and black holes). It's not just that we may never experience these things. It is that we can't ever experience these things. So we have to use what we can subjectively experience (the only material we have) to model things we can't subjectively experience.

So we say that X (what we are trying to model, but have no way of subjectively experiencing) is like Y (something we can indeed subjectively experience). Y has some characteristics (internal relationships, tendencies to interact, properties) such that with our understanding of them we can predict what we will find if we study X, which presumably has those same characteristics (internal relationships, tendencies to interact, properties).

So our models are like analogies or metaphors.

But then we start running into the fact that there may sometimes be no things we can subjectively experience that are suitable models for some of these things we are studying but can't subjectively experience.

This fact should be apparent with some simple examples, though we will also probably come to some conclusions that may be somewhat surprising to some people.

For instance, at some time in the past, we came to the conclusion that "matter," which often seems quite "solid," consists of "atoms." These "atoms" first were thought of as something like little billiard balls (something we can experience), even though they are so small we understand that we will never "see" them (or directly experience them). And we used billiard balls as models because we assumed atoms would behave at least somewhat like them (have somewhat the same properties, or tendencies that we have learned about within our subjective experience). Thus, the billiard ball (or something like it) was a model for an atom. But before long we came to the conclusion that these atoms are actually not like (solid) billiard balls, but are made of even smaller "particles," though these "particles" again were perhaps imagined to be like, or to behave like, billiard balls. But then we came to the conclusion that these "particles" have properties (under certain conditions) that are completely different from the properties of billiard balls, in fact, so different from anything we can observe (subjectively experience) that they can only be modeled by mathematical equations, which are modeling materials from which all properties have been removed other than "kinds of relationships" (equal to, more than, less than) between measurements.

So increasingly modern physics has become sets of mathematical models, designed only to predict measurements found in experiments or natural observations, as opposed to material/mechanical or pictorial models, made of parts that are familiar within subjective experience. Space (or "space-time") itself has become "fields" of numbers determined by mathematical equations, with the recognition that subjective experience simply does not have entities within it that would be easily used to model, for example, "curved space-time" or "transmission of force."

(When modern physics is explained to the lay person, that effort continues to make use of, as much as possible, materials that can be imagined at least to some extent, such as "two-dimensional bugs in a two-dimensional space like the surface of a sphere.")

To make this matter even clearer, however, let us go back to the cartoon depicting two people looking at a house, with a balloon over each person's head that has a house in it, depicting that person's subjective experience of the house. Remember that we concluded that the "real" house, the one supposed to exist even if no one is looking at it, has to be different in all respects from the subjective experience of the house, since that subjective experience is at the end of a chain of transformations (from light waves to depolarization of retinal cells, to action potentials occurring along axons, to some pattern of activation of synaptic connections between cells in the cortex, etc., ultimately associated with "seeing the house one is looking at"), those transformations being "changes" into something different than what produced them, that is, what the "real" house must consist of. But if the relationships among the parts of the "subjective-experience-of-the-house" allow one to predict what will happen (within our subjective experience) when we do things that involve the house, then that "subjective-experience-of-the-house" may be a satisfactorily accurate model of the "real" house. If the model "works" (allows one to predict accurately), then that is all we can ask of it.

But we certainly don't have to be surprised if we start finding out that these "real" things that we are attempting to model may be impossible to model very accurately by anything within our subjective experience. Another way of saying this is that "reality" may be far stranger than anything we can imagine! And indeed that is exactly what scientists are finding out as they work at the frontiers of our knowledge. Anyone who has tried to understand the latest theory of the nature of the universe, including the nature of "matter," "energy," "space," and "time," and concepts such as "strings" and "branes," will readily know what I am talking about. These concepts, or models, are primarily mathematical ones, only vaguely and incompletely (inaccurately) imaginable visually.

We are saying, then, that the world ("reality") consists of things we simply can't see, or even imagine, except in very limited, inaccurate ways. We say that atoms are "like" billiard balls, but not really. They are like little collections of tiny billiard balls arranged in certain ways, but not really. The tiny billiard balls are like "particles," but not really. They are like "points" in "fields," but not like the fields we know that we plant grain in. They are more like diagrams of plotted numbers, but not really. They may be like "strings," but not anything completely like strings we know. But one thing we feel certain of is that we will never subjectively experience an atom. We will never be able to point to one and experience it as it is, independent of anyone's subjective experience. We may point to a picture (model) of one, but not to one itself. We may model one in our imagination, but that will only be a model, an inaccurate one. And whatever model we use to predict things about those atoms, the more that model is like what we know (experience), the less likely it is to be an accurate model of the atom, as determined by results of measurements made through experimentation. The structure and operation of the nervous system determines the limits of our ability to model, and determines how we will model.

The Objective Model is indeed constructed out of parts of subjective experience, which are the material with which we attempt to model the world as it "really" is, that is, as it is independent of our experiencing it. We say the world is "sort of" like what I can imagine, and using what I can imagine, I can make predictions that work pretty well most of the time. But the more closely, accurately, and completely I attempt to develop (my version of) the Objective Model, the more I find that material from my subjective experience is inadequate to do the job, our models therefore ultimately becoming reduced to mathematical equations, stripped of anything we are familiar with (like balls, water, waves, warmth, music, etc.). Of course mathematical equations are within our subjective experience, as things we see on paper or screen or imagine seeing on paper or screen, but the only similarity between the equations and what they are describing, or modeling, is the kinds of relationships (more than, equal to, less than) found in measurements obtained in the studying of what they are modeling.

So let us realize also that, as we have said, what we find within our subjective experience is just a model of what is "actually there" in "reality," that which exists independently of anyone perceiving it or thinking about it. What is in that balloon over the head of the person that is looking at the house (in our cartoon) has to be different from the house itself, for the reasons we have described. But what we have within our subjective experience is a model of what is actually there to the extent that it allows us to predict what will happen if we interact with the house, and only to that extent. And it may be a satisfactory model even if under more rigorous conditions it does not work well. Remember that a model cannot be the same in all respects as that which it is a model of; otherwise it would be the same thing, not a model. And it is what the model is being used for that determines what aspects of it should "work," that is, allow for accurate (enough) prediction. Metaphors are models, and we well know that metaphors can be over-extended, being made to mean more than they were intended to mean by the original user of the metaphor.

But we need also to recognize that some of our models of "reality" contain things that actually don't "exist in reality." They exist by definition only. For instance, we have found it quite helpful to talk about "groups." When I speak of "a group of five people," the group of five people exists by definition only. Someone going through the universe and cataloguing all of the entities found would not come up with that group as an entity. He or she would catalogue each individual, but not the group. Similarly, although we say that North Carolina exists, it exists by definition only. No alien would ever find it in a study of our planet. Yet, it is a very useful model that affects my behavior under certain circumstances, such as when I am asked where I live, or when I want to get my driver's license. So just because we have a model of something doesn't mean that that something actually "exists in reality," no matter how useful the model is, that is, how well it "works." We have found that it is sometimes quite helpful to draw arbitrary lines (or walls) around parts of things and assign labels to what is within those lines or walls, bringing things into "existence" by definition only. Again, we draw lines on terrains, and label the lines as "boundaries." And we give labels to what is on either side of such boundaries, bringing new entities into existence, e.g., countries. (These issues will be clarified further later in this presentation.)

And to summarize the above, we can point out that all we are ever dealing with is models. These models are not the things they are modeling. We never experience "reality." We subjectively experience sensations and perceptions of it (what we see, hear, touch, smell, taste, etc.) and develop beliefs about those sensations and perceptions, such that we are able to predict what is going to happen (what our subjective experience, those sensations and perceptions, will turn out to be). And that collection of beliefs about our own subjective experience is what we have been calling the "Subjective Model," which as we have noted can be said to also include the subjective experience itself, if we wish.

But our subjective experience, remember, is itself a model, a model of part of "reality" (that which exists entirely independent of our perception of and beliefs about it). And as has been stated earlier, that subjective experience is "correlated" probably with some sort of neurological activity (probably the activity of certain networks of neuronal connections), those networks being "correlated" in turn in some way with the world as it actually is. (There will be more about that later.)

And that model (that subjective experience) is subject to inaccuracies, such as sensory deficits, perceptual illusions, and hallucinations. And our "Subjective Model" (extending to all our beliefs about our subjective experience) is subject to inaccuracies, such as ones based upon coincidental occurrences (e.g., superstition). And our "linguistic models" of our subjective models are subject to inaccuracies in language usage (e.g., the same word meaning different things to different people), leading to communication breakdown and misunderstanding. And our "Objective Model" of "reality" is subject to inaccuracies often produced by the inadequacies of the "materials" we use to model parts of "reality," that is, the materials that are parts of our subjective experience that we say parts of "reality" are "like." And of course those models that are a part of the Objective Model are also subject to inaccuracies produced by insufficiently developed scientific methods, observations, and conclusions (giving us "frontiers of knowledge").

And finally we should note that even our idea that there is a "reality," "outside of" our subjective experience, is an act of modeling, using the relationship between "inside of" and "outside of" to model that relationship between "subjective experience" and "what is there independent of subjective experience," as we did with our cartoon model, where the interior of the balloon over each person's head represents, or models, that person's subjective experience, in relationship to the actual, or "real," house (and even the person's body). And we can therefore ask how adequate that model (the cartoon as a whole, containing the "actual" house and the balloons) is to represent both the "state-of-the-world" and "our awareness of and beliefs about that state-of-the-world." (Contrary to what we see in the cartoon, we never actually experience, or observe, that boundary of our subjective experience.)

So we are coming up with three entirely separate entities as a way of looking at the totality of everything we are considering in this presentation:

There is the Subjective Model, consisting of subjective experience and a growing set of beliefs about that subjective experience acquired automatically from moment-to-moment experience.

There is reality, that which we can never experience or "know" in the same manner as we know the things within our subjective experience, but that our subjective experience is considered to be a model of, though not necessarily a highly accurate model.

There is the Objective Model, consisting of our growing set of linguistically modeled beliefs acquired from agreement with others and to a certain extent also legitimated by consistency with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence, that set of linguistically modeled beliefs being considered to be a better model, under certain circumstances, of that reality than is our Subjective Model, better only in that it leads to a better ability to predict more accurately regarding a wider range of certain things, and therefore better ability to do more (and quite impressive) things of a certain nature. (And those "certain things" are ones that are more likely to involve "everyone," or at least larger numbers of people.)

And of course this set of three entities is just a useful model for organizing some of our beliefs, useful in producing clarity of thinking (that can lead to better decision-making), what this whole book is about. But this model needs elaboration, especially with regard to the meaning of "reality."