January 20, 2022

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Is It Potential to Clarify How Consciousness Works?

Is It Possible to Explain How Consciousness Works?

Put with brutal succinctness, Damasio’s temporary goes like this: Psychological exercise consists of a stream of “photographs” that map facets of the world round us. However these photographs, by themselves, can’t be aware. For that, they should be associated to a perspective, an “proprietor,” a self — this, in any case, is what subjectivity means. And right here is the place feeling is available in. As Damasio makes use of the time period, “emotions” are “the hybrid, interactive processes of the inside, without delay psychological and bodily.” They register how effectively or badly its varied subsystems are doing at sustaining homeostasis, at holding the organism alive and flourishing. So emotions level inside, to the inside; photographs level with out, to the world. And when emotions and pictures come collectively within the mind, the result’s aware thought. To adapt a simile of Damasio’s, emotions are like a musical rating that, when added to the silent reel of photographs within the thoughts, produces cinematic consciousness.

That is Damasio’s answer to the thriller of consciousness. What’s to not like? Loads!

First, Damasio has adroitly dodged the “exhausting drawback.” A picture of (say) a bear is, in his account, a sample of neural firing within the mind. A sense of (say) worry is one other such sample. Put them collectively and also you’ve simply bought a much bigger and extra difficult sample of neural firing. Why ought to or not it’s accompanied by qualitative consciousness? For Damasio to make use of the phrases “photographs” and “emotions” to refer to those electrochemical occasions is to make them sound already aware — which may be known as the fallacy of tendentious nomenclature.

Second, for Damasio consciousness requires possessing a way of self, a capability to entertain “me-ish” ideas. However most mammals appear to have no such sense of self. They’re incapable of recognizing themselves in a mirror. That is additionally true of human kids within the first months of life — are we to suppose that they aren’t aware? This may be known as the “Unfair to infants!” objection.

Third, Damasio’s class of “feeling” is simply too capacious. It encompasses not solely feelings, but additionally wishes, and states of delight and ache. Is all of this actually essential for consciousness? Won’t rational thought plus value-based objectives be sufficient? Name this the “Unfair to Mr. Spock!” objection.

I might go on.

But when Damasio’s account of consciousness will not be an unqualified success, that merely places him within the firm of all the opposite distinguished scientists and philosophers who’ve tried to crack this conundrum. And fortunately, “Feeling & Realizing” has supplementary virtues that make it effectively price studying.

Chief amongst these is how fantastically Damasio expatiates on the theme of feeling — on how emotions “come up within the inside of organisms, within the depth of viscera and fluids the place the chemistry answerable for life in all its facets reigns supreme.” Right here the grasp scientist unites with the silken prose-stylist to supply one thrilling perception after one other. For example: The neural channels that convey feeling, in distinction to these tasked with different psychological capabilities, are uninsulated from the cells that environ them, and from the blood itself. This biochemical nakedness permits “intimate cross discuss between physique buildings and nervous system.” (D. H. Lawrence’s “pondering with the blood” will not be, alas, a pure metaphor.)

Damasio might not have dispelled the thriller of consciousness on this guide. However he has succeeded brilliantly in narrowing the hole between physique and thoughts.

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