The Materials of the Mind
Written by Dr. Nash Popovic
As is the case with the body, the soul also sustains itself and grows through interaction with the environment (which is mediated by the brain and the body during our physical lives). There are two types of ‘food’ for the soul: information and experience. Information can be defined as a comprehended relation between the objects of attention. Experience is a comprehended relation between the subject and the object. They both generate movement – and movement is energy.
The most important facet of information and experience is that they can affect the soul. Information affects its ‘surface’, which allows cumulative change. Experience, on the other hand, affects a deeper or inner configuration of the soul. Thus, information has a horizontal trajectory, while experience has a ‘depth’ trajectory. Information involves understanding, while experience involves qualia. Information is therefore usually cognised (belongs to the cognitive domain), while experience is felt (belongs to the affective domain). Experience is more direct but less constructed and precise than information, which is why it is easier to share information than experience. In short, the soul can expand through enlarging its surface by the inclusion of new information, or by incorporating new experiences. Exercising agency can also contribute to the growth of the soul (such as physical exercises making the body stronger).
These three often go together and it is hard to establish a strict demarcation – an event can provide an experience and information at the same time; our experiences may also involve choices (e.g. where to look); our choices and actions usually involve some information, and so on. However, they are not the same. Information is possible without experience, and experience is possible without information. For example, scenery may be experienced with no regard for its informational content, or items of information can be gathered about the scenery without experiencing much. So, it may be helpful to see information, experience and agency as three dimensions: