Sunday, May 31, 2009
Alva Noe "Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain"
Alva Noe visits Google's San Francisco, CA office to discuss his book "Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness." This event took place on April 16, 2009, as part of the Authors@Google series.
The notion that consciousness is confined to the brain, like software in a computer, has dominated science and philosophy for close to two centuries. Yet, according to this incisive review of contemporary neuroscience from Berkeley philosopher Nöe, the analogy is deeply flawed. In eight illuminating, mercifully jargon-free chapters, he defines what scientists really know about consciousness and makes a strong case that mind and awareness are processes that arise during a dynamic dance with the observers surroundings. Nöe begins with a sharp critique of scientists, such as DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick, who insist that nothing but neurons determines our daily perceptions and sense of self. He then examines studies of human and animal behavior that demonstrate an inextricable link between identity and environment. Nöe regrettably limits his treatise by ignoring considerable research from transpersonal psychology suggesting that consciousness transcends physicality altogether. Still, the resulting book is an invaluable contribution to cognitive science and the branch of self-reflective philosophy extending back to Descartes famous maxim, I think, therefore I am.