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Neuroscientists face off: Are we zombies or a community of minds?

In “The brain… it makes you think. Doesn’t it?” (The Guardian Observer, April 29, 2012) David Eagleman and Raymond Tallis discuss:

Eagleman: … take the vast, unconscious, automated processes that run under the hood of conscious awareness. We have discovered that the large majority of the brain’s activity takes place at this low level: the conscious part – the “me” that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is only a tiny bit of the operations. This understanding has given us a better understanding of the complex multiplicity that makes a person. A person is not a single entity of a single mind: a human is built of several parts, all of which compete to steer the ship of state. As a consequence, people are nuanced, complicated, contradictory. We act in ways that are sometimes difficult to detect by simple introspection. To know ourselves increasingly requires careful studies of the neural substrate of which we are composed.

Tallis: … we are not stand-alone brains. We are part of community of minds, a human world, that is remote in many respects from what can be observed in brains. Even if that community ultimately originated from brains, this was the work of trillions of brains over hundreds of thousands of years: individual, present-day brains are merely the entrance ticket to the drama of social life, not the drama itself. Trying to understand the community of minds in which we participate by imaging neural tissue is like trying to hear the whispering of woods by applying a stethoscope to an acorn.

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2 Responses to Neuroscientists face off: Are we zombies or a community of minds?

  1. Trying to understand the community of minds in which we participate by imaging neural tissue is like trying to hear the whispering of woods by applying a stethoscope to an acorn.[sic]

    Seems like that belongs on a T-shirt or maybe a bumper sticker no? All kidding aside, I find that this position is quite agreeable. Sort of like you cannot “see the forest for the trees”, only in reverse. The forest obscures the tree.

  2. 2

    That human “community of minds” stuff seems to be an unconscious return to Averroes ‘s immanent theory of “all men = one mind”.

    Actual intellectualism is proudly receding to the Neolithic; the Global Warming religion is a kind of Earth-Mother immanent religion.

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