Bringing the Empire Home lRy SighYou d think that by now I would know better Why did I buy a book about consciousness by an eminent scientist and expect it to shedight on the uestion of how brain processing relates to subjective conscious experience Scientists are the ast people to shed ight on this uestion because they or at Building the Cold War least most of them don t even understand the uestionWhy not Because it s not a scientific uestion at all but a philosophical one and I have yet to find a scientist who knows anything about philosophyI should warn you that the rest of this review will be written from the point of view of a peeved philosophy graduate who detests the way in which scientists all too often misconstrue and misrepresent a philosophical problem as if it were a scientific one Edelman s book is a depressing example of thisA very clear signal of the problems we are in for appears as early as page 3 where Edelman refers to a uale and tells us that it is a subjective conscious state However uale is a technical philosophical term with a precise meaning it doesn t mean a conscious state it means the subjective content of a conscious state So for example if you reooking at something suare and green one of your ualia is a green suare not as Edelman wants you to believe the state of being conscious of a green suareNot content with misusing uale in one way on page 3 Edelman decides to misuse it in an entirely different way Canadian Art, Volume 1 (A-F) later on where he tells us that ualia or experiences of ualia are the same as distinctions Yet you can prove to yourself that for example experiencing colour is not the same as drawing distinctions between colours simply byying on your back and ooking up at a cloudless blue sky you experience an expanse of blue that is your uale but since that is the only colour you are experiencing you are not drawing a distinction between that colour and any other So although it is true that distinguishing between colours is a part of the business of colour perception it is not the whole of it and the bit that has been missed is the subjective experiencing of the colour itself It is this subjective experiencing that is at the heart of the philosophical problem of consciousness The philosophical uestion essentially is this when we have understood everything that the brain does when we see colours have we then understood what the subjective experiencing of colour is and how it is created If so then there is nothing to say about colour perception than is given in an exhaustive account of the brain processing associated with colour perception if not then there is something The first view is reductionist the second non reductionist and despite Edelman s breezy assurance that reductionism is the only acceptable position the issue continues to be hotly debated by real philosophers who actually know what words ike uale mean and use them correctlyThe arguments we get from Edelman in support of reductionism are facile For example he dismisses the idea of a disembodied consciousness on the grounds that there is no scientific evidence for it Now I am certainly not here to sell you the notion of a free floating disembodied consciousness I HAVE NO IDEA WHETHER SUCH A THING IS have no idea whether such a thing is or not But does one really have to point out that in the past there was no scientific evidence for such things as black holes subatomic particles and many other phenomena and that this far from providing evidence that such things did not exist merely showed that *science was not in a position to detect them Absence of evidence as all know or should know is not *was not in position to detect them Absence of evidence as we all know or should know is not of absenceThroughout this book Edelman constantly confuses the neural base of consciousness with consciousness itself a very common failing among scientists When he does manage to separate them he opts for the weak position of epiphenomenalism while implausibly claiming not to do so He argues that consciousness cannot be causal because physics decrees that the physical world must be a closed causal system This is out of date physics because in a probabilistic uantum universe there is actually no such thing as a closed system It would also mean if it were true that Darwinian evolution was wrong because if consciousness of eg pain is not causal then there is For me this book rates up there with other classics in science Dancing at Armageddon like Chance and Necessity by Jacue Monod A pretty technical and dense book Wider Than the Sky aims to provide a consistent scientific theory on the emergence of consciousness from the neural base without delving into speculation such as uantum consciousness resolving to dualism mindbody but focusing on embodiment the fact that brain develops in a different way for every person and neurons are highly adaptable making representations of concepts non permanent in the patterns of neural firing The theory outlined makes a distinction between primary consciousness and higher order consciousness being conscious of being conscious Primary consciousness seems to have evolved in the transition from reptiles to birds and reptiles to mammals Having primary consciousness means having concepts basic understanding of cause and effect andearning from experience In the development of primates specifically with evolution of Broca and Wernicke s areas and simultaneously with the development of Double Jeopardy language conceptualizations about time space and the self enabled higher order consciousness to emerge making it possible to be conscious of being consciousThe book discusses massive re entry of neural cells aooping interplay of connections between different parts of the brain to explain the neural base for consciousness Even though it simplifies the organization of the brain structures enough for their interplay to be understood to a Composition and Literature layman I found it difficult to follow due to many anatomical terms in addition to sheer complexity of the brain The author provides a good explanation between the interplay of thalamus hippocampus cortex and other functional areas Not a casual read and very dense in parts it s hard to follow without previous understanding of brain anatomy and someevel of familiarity with philosophical approaches to explanations of consciousnes. The self and to the origins of feelings earning and memory His analysis of the brain activities underlying consciousness is based on recent remarkable advances in biochemistry immunology medical imaging neuroscience and evolutionary biology yet the implications of his book extend farther beyond the worlds of science and medicine into virtually every area of human inui. .
Gerald Edelman a Nobel prize winning neuroscientist offers a neurological theory of consciousness which interests me because consciousness is central to many philosophical positions and disputes Edelman is philosophically well informed especially praising the work of William James so that he often addresses the obvious philosophical concerns For example he takes care to avoid category errors such as the tendency to treat objects of consciousness as though they were things in the same sense as material objects Early in his book Edelman makes the point that a theory of consciousness should not be expected to duplicate consciousness eg to generate my uniue experience of red but only to explain it Just as a meteorologist can explain a hurricane but cannot produce one a brain based theory of consciousness should give a causal explanation of its properties but having done so it should not be expected to generate ualia by description Unfortunately much of the groundwork for the theory involves a detailed description of brain processes much of which is ost on me because he names and identifies many parts of the brain most of which are difficult for me to keep distinct in my own mind He then describes brain processes in terms of neural impulses which travel from this part of the brain to that so that I have a picture of a Dark Voices lot of traffic but not much clarity I do get a grasp of some of the general principlesEdelman makes a strong point that the brain does not functionike a computer Instead of algorithms and Turing Machine type operations the brain functions using neural networks and exhibits degeneracy a technical term meaning massive redundancy or that the same result can be reached by many different paths I am somewhat surprised by this since I have read Paul Churchland a neurophilosopher who describes parallel distributed processing a theoretical description of neural networks which can be implemented on a computer I think this may be a terminological dispute since artificial intelligence is based on parallel distributed processing which Contested Reproduction learns by trial and error based on massive feedbackoops This resembles brain processing as Edelman describes itEdelman says that consciousness is an epiphenomenon based on the continual cycling of neural impulses in the brain Neural input may come from sense organs such as the optic nerves and is then cycled through a part of the cerebral cortex which categorizes it in terms of conceptual experience and then is recycled so as to refine and to clarify the original impression Along the way the neural impulses may go through value systems areas of the brain not ethics which prioritize neural impulses in various ways such as to promote survival or to focus or to accomplish some other purpose This recycling of neural impulses called reentrant and related to a feedback oop resembles churning such as water in a washing machine or in ocean tides and serves to generate a constantly changing model of the sensory world as well as of one s own body and needs The image generated by the constant cycling of neural impulses is consciousness Or to put it another way consciousness is the way the world including our own bodies seems to us after the brain has done its categorizing prioritizing updating emotional coloration and other refinementsSo according to Edelman consciousness is generated by neural
processes but unlike neural processing cannot cause anything to happen Only neural processes have causal efficacy Edelman uotes beautiful metaphors from but unlike neural processing cannot cause anything to happen Only neural processes have causal efficacy Edelman uotes beautiful metaphors from James to illustrate So the melody floats from the harp string but neither checks nor uickens its vibration so the shadow runs *alongside the pedestrian but in no way influences his steps I m impressed by Edelman s argument but I *the pedestrian but in no way influences his steps I m impressed by Edelman s argument but I a problem with the idea that consciousness itself as distinct from neural processes cannot cause anything to happen Just for starters if I call up the movie theater and find out the time of the next screening my conscious knowledge of that time is part of the causal chain that eads me to go to the theater I suppose the counterargument is that my neural processes are handling all of that and my consciousness is only keeping me updatedBut I think this imits the term consciousness to only the most superficial aspects of my awareness If I know in the usual sense of the word that force euals mass times acceleration it is not just words that I know I know the meanings of the terms and how to apply those terms in specific situations Even though I may not articulate all of that I know that I know and that is part of my consciousness of knowing the euation from physics To say that my knowledge of how to apply the euation is handled by neural processes while I am only conscious of words is to take the term consciousness in too restricted a sense My consciousness includes awareness of meanings and powers that I don t necessarily recite to myselfBe all of that as it may I am impressed enough by Edelman s theory to pursue the issue by further reading While I have no doubt that Edelman is a great neuroscientist I have seen science writing done better by other people Paul Churchland in The Engine "OF REASON THE SEAT OF THE SOUL TO MY "Reason the Seat of the Soul to my does a far impressive job of describing parallel distributed processing neural networks though he approaches it from a theoretical viewpoint rather than from the viewpoint of empirical research Either way it is a fascinating topic This book is written by one of the most prominent scientists of this field therefore making it an authentic and credible depiction of the topic ConsciousnessHowever This was my first read book about consciousness and I had a hard time finishing this book not because it wasn t a great book but I had barely any knowledge as prereuisites other than the uest to understand consciousness and wondering Moreover I was in a rush to return the book to the borrowerThe only thing I rememb be patient u ve gotta get thru about 80 pages before the book starts getting anywhere near interestingthe biological theory must show how the neural bases for consciousness could have arisen during evolution how consciousness develops in. How does the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations thoughts and emotions How can the disparate domains of mind and body be reconciled The uest for a scientifically based understanding of consciousness has attracted study and speculation across the ages In this direct and non technical discussion of consciousness Dr Gerald M Edelman draws on a ifetime of. Certain animalscausal status of consciousness epiphenomenon wo material conseuences efficacious causes things to happen neural bases of consciousness but not consciousness per se can cause things to happenhow a neural mechanism entails a subjective conscious state ualeWilliam James consciousness is utterly dependent on the brain consciousness is embodiedhow properties of conscious experience can emerge from properties of brainconsciousness is a process not a thingJamesian properties of consciousnessprivatesubjective occurs only in the individualcontinuous albeit continually changingintentionality about thingseventsdoes not exhaust all aspects to which it refers unitaryintegrated scenes differentiated from moment to momentthe remembered presentall past experience is engaged in forming my integrated awareness of this single momentprimary consciousness Blacklands lacking in semanticlinguistic capabilities socially defined self sense of pastfuturehigher order consciousness recreate past episodes form future intentionssemantic ability assignment of meaning to a symbollinguistic ability system of symbols grammaruale particular experience of some propertyualia higher order discriminations that constitute consciousness experienced as parts of unitaryintegrated conscious sceneconscious events complex set of ualiaualia ability of conscious individuals to make high order discriminationsscientific description of consciousnessgive a causal account of relationship btw these domains so properties in one domain may be understood in terms of events in the otherbrain based theory of consciousness should give a causal explanation of its properties but should not be expected to generate ualia by description The Brain is wider than the Sky For put them side by side The one the other will containWith ease and You beside The Brain is deeper than the sea For hold them Blue to Blue The one the other will absorb As Sponges Buckets do The Brain is just the weight of God For Heft them Pound for Pound And they will differ if they do As Syllable from Sound Emily DickinsonThis book is amazing Edelman is amazing It not exactlyight reading and while he does do alot of explaining One may get Evolutionary Patterns lost with out a solid knowledge base in the subject to begin with So I did a single module of neuropsychology in college and have read a few books about the brain since to give you an idea of my backgroundTo me about half of it was comprehensible He starts off admirably explaining the theory of brain that he is basing this explanation of consciousness on This part is difficult but I was just about able to understand it and it was frankly fascinating I had never read an overall theory of the brain before and it was greatAs the book progresses though heoses all pretence of writing the book for a general or non expert audience After the theory of brain he goes into the basic theory of consciousness he is expounding this part is faintly understandable though much of it was Evolution As Entropy lost on me He then goes into specific topicsike explaining ualia the sense of feeling something and intentionality the intention to do something and these parts were way past me and I believe 80 90% of people out there which makes you wonder as I have done so often with these types of books why he bothered explaining things at the start if the book wasn t written for a general audience It wasn t an issue of talking about specific brain regions that an expert wouldn t know it
was his use of anguage something that was entirely avoidable if he his use of anguage something that was entirely avoidable if he wrote it better or had a better editorFor example there was a sentence The reticular nucleus it is suspected acts to switch or gate the activities of the specific thalamic nuclei yielding different patterns of expression "OF SUCH SENSORY MODALITIES AS SIGHT HEARING AND TOUCH "such sensory modalities as sight hearing and touch could have been written The reticular nucleus is believed to be a switch or gate to different ways to see hear or sense the world and would ve been shorter and a Forbidden History lot clearerTheast two chapters become very readable again and are a uite interesting summary of the book but Fiche Blian ag Fás leave out aot of detail I can only presume was gone into in detail in previous chapters He also Esteem Enlivened by Desire leaves out thingsike experimental backing for the theory which he says is done in different books Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith listed in the bibliography which is also very wellaid out The glossary is poorly explained as well as it always being cumbersome to have to go to the end of the book to read the out of context explanation of a term that could ve been just explained in textAs it was what I did understand was fascinating but there was far too ittle of those bits This is not so much a review as a synopsisEdelman s work on both researching and describing neuroanatomy has significantly changed the way we see how the brain works It is not too difficult to follow and should be enough to rock subjects ike psychology to the core as they seem happy to proceed on the delusion that there is some kind of metaphysical ie non physical mind that bears no resemblance to the brain With people such as Edelman and Maturana and Varela on the *case metaphysical approaches to the mind should soon be a thing of the past wishful thinkingRe entry within *metaphysical approaches to the mind should soon be a thing of the past wishful thinkingRe entry within dynamic core of the brain allows for primary consciousness mediation of value category memory originating in bodily experiences and thru re entry This book is very interesting but very difficult Edelman starts by describing the neural anatomy that sensory perceptions and then processed information travels through in order for our brains to process information then describes how this process of ordering info is primary consciousness Combined with value systems with instinctual responses to stimuli the development of communication then They Shall Be One Flesh language our brains evolved to also process abstract thoughts How our brains processanguage was not really discussed and could have bridged the gap between advanced sensory perception and value filters and Socrates So this is only the beginning of my reading not the end However Edelman notes how our memories and concepts about those memories form our identities A good start but be prepared for alot of hard vocabula. Scientific inuiry into the workings of the brain to formulate answers to the mind body uestions that intrigue every thinking personConcise and understandable the book explains pertinent findings of modern neuroscience and describes how consciousness arises in complex brains Edelman explores the relation of consciousness to causation to evolution to the development of.
May the Best Man Win
A trans boy enters a throw down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor's contemporary YA debut.Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and outdate school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all star ex boyfriend, Lukas for the title of Homecoming King? Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss long term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kick starts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign. When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.