Abstract: Functions, the specificity of dynamic relationships between things, are co-affecters with physical nature of events. Functions, as such, are intangible and therefore intangible affecters. Intangible affecters do not exist in the material world or for that matter in any world but their effects evidence their existence. It is a new and difficult concept but essential for understanding complex organizations such as consciousness.

What would you think if I told you that there are spirits all around us affecting everything that we do and meant it seriously? Are you already saying to yourself, “I don’t have time for this,” and getting ready to click your mouse? Go ahead and do it but here is a warning. Spirits are a fact. You can take the pill now or later but you will be talking about spirits or at least about intangible affecters sooner or later. I know the idea of spirits offends your scientific sensibilities. I might have avoided using the word spirit and instead have talked about intangible affecters but I wanted to give you an idea, right from the start, about just how much you are going to have to stretch your mind to accommodate an important new science.
Six years ago I was a strict determinist. I thought the beauty of science was that if we could know where everything was and knew all the laws of physics that then we could predict where everything would be. I believed that the Universe was only material, energy and forces and that everything would find its explanation through understanding physical nature. As a matter of fact, I would probably be right if I blamed the advent of scientific methodology, beginning in the time of Sir Francis Bacon six hundred years ago, for our being oblivious of intangible affecters. We turned so unswervingly to the idea that the final arbiter of explanation for everything would be found in physics that, metaphorically, we buried our heads in the sand of materialism. It is now at the turn of the millennium at the height of our dogmatic belief in the monistic ontology of materialism that we have come face to face with ourselves. We are asking how consciousness is possible and we are finding that physics cannot possibly hold all the answers.
What is important to you about intangible affecters is that they are affecting everything that happens around you. They are not physical in any way except for their effects. They arise out of the relationships between the forms of physical things but they also arise out of relationships between themselves. There is no spiritual realm but there are intangible affecters (and spirits). You will just have to stick with me if want to understand that. And you should want to understand that. How can you be real about understanding the world scientifically if you are only looking at the physical aspect of how it works? Let me emphasize again that intangible affecters are affecting physical events and that those effects are not explained by physics. This does not mean that events can no longer be understood by science. It just means that they cannot be understood by physics and the sciences that are ultimately based in physics alone. Intangible affecters are a new field in science. It will seem revolutionary at its inception but with time it will become ordinary in its application and we will look back and wonder how we could have missed something so important and fundamental.
Don’t be put off if I take you into the subject at a casual pace. It will pickup soon enough. It has taken me years to change the epistemological perspectives of my mind to understand them and to feel the confidence that I do now in explaining them to you. As I have said, there will be a science of intangible affecters but the most I can provide you with at the moment is an awareness of them and an ontological explanation of their genesis from a foundation in logic and science that you will be able to accept. You will have trouble with the concepts because they go against the hidden grain of your mind’s epistemological organization. It is therefore important for me to first make the fact of intangible affecters evident to you. After that recognition is established, you then should have the impetus (if you care about understanding) to want to know how they are possible and how they work.
I might have discovered the existence of intangible affecters because I had my sights on understanding consciousness. It is so easy to believe that complex things do not need to be understood because they are just too multifaceted to be practically analyzed. I am talking about things such as societies, cultures and economics. We conveniently believe that if we could take these things apart piece by piece that we would find how everything could be explained through the laws of physics (please assume that when I say the laws of physics I am including all the laws of the hard sciences whose laws relate to the physical nature of physical things). Because we make that assumption we don’t even begin to try to explain those kinds of things or at least we didn’t until we decided that it was time to understand what our minds are.
The mind is complex but because it is also a natural phenomenon (not a product of human culture) we are challenged to understand it. We cannot pass it off as one of those arbitrarily complex things like society, culture or economics. But, thinking is like a society. They are both organizations of dynamic relationships being carried on physical substrates. We don’t find consciousness by looking at the brain anymore than we find society by looking at the buildings and people in a city. Each is a highly evolved set of functional relationships. Is it the purview of physics to describe these relationships? No. Does physics describe or explain the specificity of functional relationships? No. Do the functional relationships built into a society determine how that society will behave? Absolutely. Are functional relationships what make a mind different than a brain? It is not so obvious but the answer is yes. We are not just talking about psychology here but more fundamentally about thinking itself. The dynamic functional relationships in the brain create the process of thinking, which, when it occurs in experiential brain states, creates consciousness. The relationships that create the mind are not physical processes as much as they are functional processes. It is in being circumspect about that difference that we become aware of function (which is the specificity of relationship between things) as an intangible affecter. Consciousness cannot be explained unless we take into account the effect that functional relationships have on physical events.
It is possible that you may be of the perspective that a function must be related to a purpose and must relate to someone’s intention. That is not the way that I will use the word function. I will use the word function to describe the specific relationships that occur in an event. For example, the function of rain waters plants only because it does, though it may have nothing to do with any man’s intentions.
It is not enough for you to think that I am just talking about ‘process’ because out of the effectual nature of relationships arises functions such as our organisms and our ‘selves’. ‘Selves’ and organisms are much more than just process. They are agents. They are you and I. When I set out to do something, it is not the nature of my physical organism that will cause it to happen. The cause will be a set of relationships that don’t even have a material presence. The materials of my being will only play the very minor role of being the carrier of those relationships. Lets slow down and take this step-by-step. The first step is to make you familiar with the idea that there are affecters other than physical affecters.
I first became clued into the idea that there are other affecters when I was musing one day about how wrapped up American society is with the automobile. My car is fifteen years old and I am horrified at the idea of having to pay $20,000 to $30,000 for a new one. I know I can afford a new car far more easily than most people who have them can. A lot of those people are working two jobs to make ends meet. Such sacrifice is indicative of how much self-images are wrapped up in the kind of automobile one drives. Kids are only too eager to grow up so they can drive the family car. That’s when the family’s auto insurance goes up big time. And then come the conflicts over who gets to use the automobile and usually it is decided by getting another automobile. That is a very partial list of effects that the automobile has on us at the personal level of the individual but the automobile is an institution in society that affects its very organization.
We drive to work, to shop, to visit or just for recreation. The better the automobiles and the roads that we have, the further we are willing to drive. Families are spread far and wide because the automobile permits us to drive over to a relative’s house for a visit. We can enjoy living in the country because we can drive into town for work. Of course we have to pay for those expensive roads with our taxes. An incumbent politician will take advantage of our obsession with the automobile and have the roads paved just before elections to have us vote for him/her. Of course, automobiles create a great deal of pollution and we have to deal with that too. But nobody is about to give up his or her automobile. The advertising industry is constantly bombarding us with enticements to buy a new one and the automobile manufacturing industry is one of the pillars of the economy. I could go on and on describing the effects the automobile has on our society and on us as individuals.
Are we driving the automobile or is the automobile driving us? I was recognizing that the ‘automobile’ was an institution of relationships affecting the way that we live and the world that we live in. It seemed that it was the relationships themselves (that I am calling the automobile) that were affecting us. If I use an automobile to go somewhere it is because there is the potential of my driving an automobile there over roads built for automobiles. I probably would not make the trip if there were not an automobile and a road to take me there. These special relationships are affecters that physics cannot possibly explain because they are not physical. It is not the road and the car themselves that make such a trip possible but rather it is the specific relationship of a car to a road. That relationship depends on the specific relationships that make a car what it is and that make a road what it is, too. Lets not forget the specific relationship that I have to the car as an educated driver. If I could not drive the car, I might not make the trip.
The fact that it was the relationships themselves acting as affecters was not so obvious to me six years ago. I could not conceive then of an intangible thing like a relationship having a physical effect. What was obvious was that the ‘automobile’ was having an impact on society and myself that could not be explained by physics. There was too much physical dissociation between the things that were being functionally related for physics to explain why they were happening.
Why in the world was I thinking about spending $20,000 for a new car when my old one worked just fine? Even if there is a physics underlying the institution of the automobile, there is no physics to explain the principles of a social self-image and why I might want to buy a Subaru Forester. There are no laws of physics relating to Subaru Foresters. Does physics even recognize what a car or a road is? It doesn’t call some activity a trip or even my use of a car driving. These are relationships and not the specialty of physics, which is a generalization of the regularities of physical nature. Physics might presume to explain how these things can happen relative to the forces we posit to physical nature but it doesn’t explain why I might want a particular car. I believe that there is truly a reason (a causal explanation) as to why I want a particular car or any car but the explanation is not to be found in physics. My choice of a particular car has a lot to do with how I view myself and how others view me and the reason I want any car is so I can get somewhere I want to go. None of this would be so if the specificity of relationships were not affecting physical events.
The reason this was not so obvious to me six years ago was because I was stuck on the idea that only forces could cause effects. When a car runs over someone and kills him or her do we say that it was a set of intangible relationships that caused his death? No. We say that being hit by the car caused his or her death. We focus on the physical aspect of the event. Yet as time goes on, in our minds we begin to think of the driver as the cause of the victim’s death. Now we are focusing on the relationship of the driver to the car as the cause. We think that there was a specific way in which he of she drove the car that was the cause. We also consider that it was the kind of person that he or she was in the circumstances that he found himself or herself that contributed to the cause. So in the end we do believe that it was a set of relationships that caused the victim’s death.
We don’t blame the material of the Universe. We blame the relationships of the things into which it is formed. We blame the driver, his or her mind, and his or her relationship to the car, the car, the road and the victim’s relationship to all of the above.
The driver can admit that the accident was his fault but then again what is a driver? A person is a set of intangible relationships that creates agency and can accept social responsibility. There is nothing substantial at the bottom of those relationships that is the person. It is the set of intangible relationships themselves that have accepted responsibility. In the final analysis, there is nothing except a transient pattern of events that we hold responsible. We are not going to blame the material of the Universe. How naïve can we be to believe that this is a world determined by physical nature alone?
We blithely assume all things are connected together in ways explainable by physics alone. Can physics explain the circumstances of the accident above? Can it explain cars, roads, drivers and the relationships between them? There is no physics for my preferences for certain makes and models. How do we explain those seemingly intangible influences scientifically? We don’t even try. We ignore them and assume that somewhere buried in the complexity of things that the laws of physics are still the ultimate arbiters of the explanation of all that happens.
Suppose that I am about to buy the car I have dreamed about for two years. My finances are finally all worked out when I get a call from San Francisco informing me that my son has been in a traffic accident. He needs immediate and expensive surgery. Do you believe that physics can explain how my mind’s progression towards buying a car is interrupted by a phone call informing me of an accident in California and thereby changing my priorities?
Let’s see how that physics might have occurred. A voice, that is a vibration of air molecules, contacts a device that uses the energy of the vibrations to modulate an electrical signal that is then used to produce a radio frequency signal sampled so many times a second and sent to a satellite that relays it to Hawaii. It, whatever it might be at this point, is then sent to my telephone and is decoded and recoded into an air vibration that stimulates sensation in my ear. That seems more like physics but what did it have to do with changing my priorities? Obviously, something more than energy was transmitted by that telephone call.
There really is only one place to go with this so let me cut to it. What were being processed in my head were symbols. These were specific patterns in the signals that were being transmitted to my ear on the vehicle of a physical substrate taking the form of the special relationships of telephone communication. The normal specificity of the dynamic relationships that subserve the process of thinking did not change much on receiving the call but the functional path of the symbols being processed by those relationships changed dramatically. In short, my plans changed. The specificities of the dynamic relationships of the materials of the brain were the carrier or substrate that supported the thought process, which in turn was the carrier of the functional path or relationships of the symbols. The functional path of the telephone conversation flowed through the interactions of symbols. The information contained in the symbols was manifest by being vested first in the patterns of modulation of the telephone transmission signal and then in the specific patterns of brain activity. (To simplify, I am going to say that a particular brain form represents the information contained in a symbol.) Brain activity is organized into specific patterns that are processing algorithms. Brain activity is itself dependent on the organization of tissues, which in turn are dependent upon the organization of molecules. They in turn are dependent upon the specific organization of atoms.
Down at the bottom of all this specificity of organization is physics. The processes created by the specificity of the brain’s organization are in fact controlling the physical events in the brain. It is not the other way around. The physical substrate merely carries these intangible processes but it does not limit what they can process or cause what those processes themselves can cause to happen. The intangible processes are not only thinking. They are also the underlying organizations that we call atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, and the brain. The more complex the organization the more effect the organization has on physical events.
Symbols become represented by brain forms through conditioning. A symbol’s meaning is created by the symbol’s context, that is, its functional relationship to other symbols. One set of context is the immediate symbol environment of the symbol, the other symbols in the functional path. A second set of context is memory and a third set is our navigation system’s interrelationship with the external environment, which it represents. The second and third sets put symbols into broader contexts, which provide the relationships that give meaning to the symbols and provide algorithms for their processing. The information of a symbol is an intangible characteristic of the underlying brain form. What it represents is not a material fact in the brain form, nor does what it represents resemble the brain form in any way except maybe as an analog of its temporal spatial pattern. The meaning and information of a symbol is an abstract intangible product of relationships.
The rules for how an individual processes symbols are brain patterns themselves mostly derived from his or her experience conditioned into his or her brain forms. Some of the rules for processing are hardwired and hereditary. They resulted from conditioning through evolutionary natural selection. Therefore, the individual’s learned and hard-wired programs (that he or she is endowed with genetically), being the set of algorithms that process the information contained in symbols, also carry conditioned and hereditary biases. That is exactly why some of the concepts that I am expressing in explaining intangible affecters and consciousness are difficult to understand. Thinking is not a purely logical function. It depends on both neurological processes and an epistemological structure of (processing) relationships that are axiomatic and tainted relative to truth. You can only escape such bias when the epistemological structure in your mind is changed fundamentally. You will only understand consciousness and intangible affecters when the algorithms you use to process the information reflect accurately what the circumstances of reality are.
The functional path of thought flows through the brain forms that are symbols and rules and also shapes new symbols and new rules. That was how my mind was able to change my plans. The physical energy of the material brain provides the momentum to keep the functional path moving but the path itself is controlled by the rules vested in the functional path both through conditioning and heredity. The rules change the physical patterns of the neurological activity of the brain so that the brain is continuously processing different information. The functional path is the intangible aspect of the process and is what we call and experience as our minds. The mind controls what the brain is processing. The mind is an intangible affecter controlling the brain. The mind is the functional path. The brain is the physical path.
That was very clear for me, but I have no doubt you are thinking “What?” What I just did was to show you how something that is nothing can effect something that is physical. The explanation is far from complete but the essential concept is there in full. You need to study the argument because we will be carrying the implications a long ways. The setting of the mind is one of the easiest places to catch a glimpse of what an intangible affecter is but we are going to find them in everything. You want to make yourself comfortable with the argument now.
An intangible affecter is not nothing. It is just not something material/physical/substantial. Nor is it something in some other than physical realm if there are such other realms. (In other words, it doesn’t exist in some spiritual realm.) It exists by virtue of its effect. Intangible affecters only exist as the specific interactions of things in a dynamic context. They have no separate existence of their own. They are the specificity of events carried on the substrate of material things. The events are more than the mere interactions of physically related objects. Their specificity creates functions, functions such as our selves.
The specificity of an event sets the stage for the next thing to happen. For example, if the specific events leading to the formation of DNA did not happen, it is likely that the earth would be barren of life. The functions of DNA and evolution were crucial to our existence. It is not the domain of physics to explain function but more importantly it is not physical nature alone that determines specific events. There has been a functional path of events being carried on the physical substrate of the physical Universe ever since the time the presumed symmetry of the Universe was broken. The specificity of events that occurred has forever been shaping the events occurring. This is an active relationship wherein an event’s specificity affects the outcome of events just as does the innate physical nature of material. Function is interacting with physical nature in determining what happens. This is not understood. When it is understood there will evolve a science of intangible affecters parallel to physics that will be useful for understanding such things as societies, culture, economic trends, evolution, organisms, “selves”, consciousness and other complex and simpler organizations. We are going to develop the principles of intangible affecters sufficiently to understand consciousness.
To begin with, let’s work on making the distinction between a physical path of events and a functional path of events. The physical path and the functional path are concurrent in all events in the Universe. All physical events are interconnected in a continuous unfolding of the physical Universe. The functional path, on the other hand, is carried on this physical substrate and can be continuous at times and discontinuous at other times. The functional path is no more than the patterns that are playing on the material Universe. Imagine the Universe as a sea of energy in which its present state of formation is our world today. If you were to melt down the patterns in that sea of energy by heating it back up to the level of the Big Bang, then everything that we recognize as the world would disappear, back into a non-differentiated state. It is certain that evolution would not take the same path cooling down again. It would produce a different Universe and not one in which I existed.
That is the broadest view of the functional path but we can consider the functional path in much more mundane circumstances. For example, consider an event of a storm blowing down utility lines. The physical world didn’t become discontinuous; it didn’t disappear. On the other hand, the ball game on the television went off, my conversation with my daughter in Texas was broken, the food in the refrigerator is getting warm without refrigeration, and one can’t call on the telephone to find out what is being done about the situation. The functional path of many things has become discontinuous. It means that many things that might have happened didn’t or won’t happen. Of course from a purely physical point of view nothing stopped. The storm interrupted the functional path of things going on but it did not interrupt the physical path. Some functional paths became discontinuous and other functional paths were begun.
The storm is a pattern in the sea of energy that is the Universe. It is a major intangible affecter. Its energy is that of its substance but its effect is created by the relationship of its form to other forms. The wave of destruction that it causes is relative to the way that its form impacts other forms in the sea of energy.
The transient patterns supervening on the sea of energy are the functional path. These dynamic patterns are merely the intangible relationships of transient forms but they are what the world and we are. The interactions of physical forms are at the boundary of the physical path and the functional path. Physics describes the regularities of physical nature as regards energy and the physical forces. Function is a description of the specificity of forms and their interactions. From that boundary, the functional path grows into a world of its own with its own rules and emergent properties. These relationships are intangible to begin with but they also build on each other into very complex forms that include qualities that are entirely abstract yet effect physical events. An organism, for example, is a hierarchical ordering of forms within higher levels of forms or, we could say, of patterns within patterns. Forms co-opt physical nature for their empowerment to affect physical events but then they add the effects of their own configuration to the result. In an organism, the forms that create gates and timers set up the coordination of organ systems. Coordination is obviously an emergent property that has no explanation in the vocabulary of physics. Coordination is a functional or intangible affecter of physical events and also of intangible events.
Functions are intangible affecters because their effectual nature exists only in a time lapsed pattern of activity. Patterns of activity do not exist substantially in the moment, as do physical things. Let’s consider a rifle for an example of these ideas. Let’s say that the trigger, hammer, firing pin and barrel are all objects made of steel. They are all separate objects but they function together as a rifle. If you remove the firing pin, the rest of the parts will not function as a rifle. This demonstrates that the firing pin is crucial to the RIFLE (RIFLE = function of the rifle). If you replace the firing pin with a blob of steel, the RIFLE will not function. This demonstrates that the form of the firing pin is crucial to the RIFLE. If you replace the firing pin with one made of hard ceramic, the assembly of objects will again be a RIFLE. This demonstrates that the form of the firing pin is more crucial than its material. It is clear that the form and functioning of the firing pin is a part of the cause of the RIFLE firing a bullet. The firing pin’s function is a synthesis of the effect of the firing pin’s form on the dynamic nature of the firing pin’s materials and the firing pin’s interactive relationship with the other parts of the RIFLE.
I call functions, which are the specific relationships that affect how the dynamic natures of material things are expressed, intangible affecters. Relationships are intangible. The intangible aspects of the RIFLE are in the specificity of relationships of its physical components and their interactions. They are in specific dimensions, shapes, distances apart, times of action and the pattern of interactions. Imagine a rifle. Next, imagine that only the outline of the rifle’s components is left after everything material about the rifle is pushed into a hidden dimension so that it is like a schematic drawing. Then imagine the RIFLE firing in this schematic form. This is what the RIFLE (the function of the rifle) is. (The schematic outlines were merely a prop to get across the idea of relationships as different than their material carriers). The functional role of the firing pin is intangible yet it is effectual and essential to the RIFLE. The RIFLE itself is an intangible affecter, too, at a higher level of organization. A RIFLE was used to assassinate President Kennedy, an event that had an immense impact on the physical and functional paths of the world.
Physical nature and functions determine the kind of events that can happen between things. The interactive relationships between forms are intangible affecters. Everything that is physical is in a form. Therefore an intangible affecter is created in every physical event. In every physical event, physical nature and function are co-affecters determining the outcome of the event. Events are never isolated implying that they are always in a broader context. The nature of function is such that a broader context is a network of indirect relationships affecting an event. The relationships in a broader context may also be complex including abstract affecters such as control, timing, coordination, anticipation, intent, representation, computation, navigation, agency, dependence, determination and every other quality that we recognize as an affecter. Complex intangible affecters can have dominant control over events such that they appear to use the physical substrate as a mere vehicle to their ends. It is the capacity of intangible affecters to shape events that makes the kind of world in which human culture exists. Physical nature hardly contributes to the functions of our lives except to set limits on what the physical substrate carrying the functional relationships can do. The important shapers of life and human culture are the relationships between things. Even when these relationships are abstract they are still true affecters. These principles are essential to understanding “self” and consciousness.
It is very naïve to think that physics could be the final arbiter of the explanation of events. If it were merely physical nature that determined what happened, then as much as I believed that I could plan and articulate a plan, it would be a falsehood. How could I make choices if physical laws determine what I will do? And if I can’t make choices, why do I believe that I do? I am not that stupid. We know that we are making choices. We just don’t understand how we do it due to our illusion that physics is the final arbiter of all explanations of events.
Relationships can affect other relationships. That is, something intangible can affect something else that is intangible. Suppose a group of people wants to go to New York. They are put in a vehicle with a propulsion system. That is one set of relationships. The vehicle is designed with wings so that it can fly. That is another set of relationships or one intangible thing affecting another intangible thing. You might say that it is arbitrary where I divide up the relationships in an airplane. Maybe so, but the idea of conveying people in a vehicle came long before the relationships that enabled the vehicle to fly.
Life is an event in which systems having different functions are associated in an organism. The difference in the evolution of an airplane and an organism sheds light on what makes humans so original in evolution. Nature could only develop interdependent systems of relationships such as in an organism in contemporaneous evolution. Evolution is a blind creator. It does not have a mind that can represent or manipulate a design for creation but it did create man with a mind that could. The supporting systems of relationships that made this possible include being someone (a ‘self’) with agency (the means to affect other things), free will (a ‘selfish’ desire to affect other things) and a navigation system (consciousness) to facilitate movement.
The distinctions of function are not made in explaining events through physics. It is not a firing pin in the RIFLE. It is steel object a. or b. If we describe the function of the firing pin then we have moved into the description of specific relationships or intangible affecters. An intangible affecter depends on the physical substrate for its energy. Its effect comes from the specificity of the form of the physical substrate.
Let me illustrate this for you using a common form of relationship: the lock and key. When my path brings me to a locked door the flow of events reaches a critical juncture whereat the availability of the relationship vested in the right key determines a course of events that allows me to go through the doorway with little application of physical force. The relationship of the key to the lock was the major affecter of the event. A narrow-minded physicist may ignore the fact that the key in the lock mediated the amount of energy needed to open the door. There was merely the event. But then, he would be ignoring the specificity of the relationships and their significance. He would only be looking at the physics. He would be saying that to physics it doesn’t matter if you had to break down the door with a sledgehammer. (Notice that the affecter is not the key itself or the lock itself but is rather the relationship of the key to the lock.)
By ignoring the specific effects of relationships, all the physicist sees is physics. He does not note that the outcome of events would be different if the circumstances were different. It means that when he tries to explain consciousness, for example, he does not recognize the physical effects of intangible relationships and therefore finds that his physics is inadequate to explain consciousness. Agency in the form of my ‘self’ that is able to make choices and act upon them is an example of where physics is totally inadequate to explain events. Agency is the result of the organization of relationships into complex intangible affecters.
Molecular biology reveals that most all of the foundations of life’s processes depend upon lock and key relationships. At the cell wall, the passage of nutrients and wastes, hormones and neurotransmitters, glandular secretions and medicine are mostly lock and key relationships. The lock and key are a type in the taxonomy of intangible affecters. Lock and key relationships generally serve as gate openers for other events. Add another intangible, the timer, to facilitate coordination to the lock and key and you have the basis of design for very complex systems. Scientists have understood many relationships involved in complex systems, yet they don’t recognize that functions are affecters. They deal with them as affecters but vaguely assume that their effects will be explained by physics.
That perspective prevents science from understanding how complex systems are built from abstract relationships. It is not so much of a problem when only physical relationships are considered but intangible affecters are also built from the relationships of intangible things. If you want to understand why the words of this text are having an effect on you, you will have to go much farther than the mere fact of their configuration out there in the external world. Very little of the event of your reading and understanding these words will fall into the domain explained by physics. There is absolutely nothing physical about understanding. It is entirely manifested in a configuration of functional relationships. Similarly, we don’t recognize that agency is a brain form that creates agency because we are looking for a physical explanation. The study of intangible affecters must find its place along side that of physics if we are to understand consciousness.
The angle at which a billiard ball hits the billiard table determines the further course of the billiard ball. That is the perspective of physics. The billiard table is also the agent that contains the billiard balls and redirects their courses in the game of billiards. That perspective looks at the function of the billiard table. It is hard to see agency in such a simple relationship, but as the complexity of relationship increases, agency becomes more apparent. Take a hand for example. The specificity of relationships entrained in the form a hand mold the dynamic nature of its materials. Like the function of a billiard table, the specificity of relationships that form a hand are woven like an intangible glove so as to contain and direct the physical nature of the materials of the hand. My hand defies gravity by grasping and picking up things that are trying to fall. This is an effectual emergent property created by the specificity of relationships in a hand. The idea in my brain of ‘wanting to pick something up’ is not much different than the hand, which it directs; they are both specific dynamic relationships in a physical substrate. The idea of ‘wanting to pick something up’ is a relationship through which physical energy is channeled to effect action.
Just as a specificity of relationships creates the emergent properties of the hand, so too, a specificity of relationships in the brain creates the emergent properties of a ‘self’ such as you or I. The ‘self’ seems to be more abstract and therefore more baffling than a hand. If you didn’t have a familiarity with hands and a hand were in a box like the ‘self’ is in a head and all you could see was a cornucopia of ‘handmade’ products coming out the box without seeing the mechanism making them, it would seem just a baffling. We hear and see the products of the ‘self’ in words, ideas and behavior. They express the emergent properties of the specificity of relationships of brain forms. It may seem that I initiate activities by being at their inception. That impression is commensurate with the nature of functional relationships. The functional way in which we think uses the organization of an action plan, which is a subject / doing some action / (usually to some object). It is the structural relationships of this form that makes it seem that I am at the inception of my actions. If we can first see how it is that we as ‘selves’ are organized then we will be better able to understand our experience of consciousness.