IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > CognitiveLiberty > Vision > Bioculture > Enablement
You Are Not Your Brain
Alva Noë   Jul 17, 2012   big think  

Contemporary research on consciousness in neuroscience rests on unquestioned but highly questionable foundations. Human nature is no less mysterious now than it was a hundred years ago,” writes philosopher Alva Noë in his book “Out of Our Heads.”

It’s a bold assertion in an age when fMRI has enabled us to see images of the brain functioning in real time, and when many prominent public intellectuals (Stephen Hawking, Eric Kandel) have argued, either implicitly or vociferously, in favor of reductionism. The “brain-as-calculating machine” analogy assumes that human thought, personality, memory, and emotion are located somewhere in the gray matter protected by the skull. In other words, you—at least, the waking you who gets out of bed in the morning—are your brain.

But you’re not, says Noë. Just as love does not live inside the heart, consciousness is not contained in a finite space—it’s something that arises, something that occurs: a verb rather than a noun. And since the publication of Francis Crick’s influential “The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul,” scientists have been looking for it in all the wrong places.


The phrasing that "consciousness is not contained in a finite space" is wildly misleading and implicitly encouraging of harebrained supernaturalist mysticism. Just because we don't yet have a coherent theory of precisely how consciousness arises, or where (as if it can be nailed down to a specific point on the body... it's a system-wide phenomenon, but the system is by all means finite, and confined to a finite space - the human body/organism) does not imply anything of the sort. It's only a question of how long it takes us to figure it out, that's all.
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