- Paperback: 287 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (26 April 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140281479
- ISBN-13: 978-0140281477
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Penguin Press Science) Paperback – 26 Apr 2001
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Emily Dickinson wrote "The Brain--is wider than the Sky", and who can argue with that? Quoted by Nobel-prize-winning scientist Gerald M Edelman and his Neurosciences Institute colleague Giulio Tononi in Consciousness, Dickinson neatly explains the problem of conscious awareness, then ducks out of the way as the two scientists get to work solving it. Testable theories of consciousness are mighty lonely, as even the soberest mind can be driven to tears of madness pondering its own activity. Centuries of work by philosophers and psychologists like James and Freud have made little progress by starting with awareness and working backward to the brain; these days we have a secure enough base to try looking in the other direction and building a theory of the mind out of neurons.
Though Edelman and Tononi do make a good effort to help out the lay reader, ultimately Consciousness is aimed at the interdisciplinary gang of scientists and academics trying to understand our shared but invisible experience. The first sections of the book cover the basic philosophical, psychological, and biological elements essential to their theory. Swiftly the authors proceed to define terms and concepts (even the long-abused term "complexity" gets a reappraisal) and elaborate these to create a robust, testable theory of the neural basis of consciousness. Following this hard work, they consider some ramifications of the theory and take a close look at language and thinking. This much-needed jumpstart is sure to provoke a flurry of experimental and theoretical response;Consciousness might just help us answer some of the greatest questions of science, philosophy, and even poetry. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Praise for Gerald Edelman: "The new Darwin...His theory is an enrichment of life itself" - Oliver Sacks, The Times"See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
As above, so below. This seems to be the key to unlocking Edelman's approach. Evolution and natural selection seems to apply not only to the level of organisms but also to memory systems. Edelman shared a Nobel prize in 1972 for his work on the evolving immune system. He then used a similar approach to tackle the mystery of our minds.
This book is not an easy one. It is dense with concepts and it will require the reader's full attention and dedication. Edelman's older theories (Neuronal Darwinism and Biological Consciousness) are presented in brief but not explained in depth - for that I would recommend his older book The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness. On the other hand, this book is not limited to specialists; dedicated enthusiasts can still get the most out of it. Its 274 pages are organized in seventeen chapters with full bibliography and index.
As memory and consciousness are also my foci of study (and research papers alone rarely offer the big picture!Read more ›
It is a good book on the workings of the brain with an interesting bundle of hypotheses on how these working may generate conscious thought processes amongst other things. It is well worth reading so please don't take my criticisms as implying in any way that it is a bad book or poorly written. However, like all specialists writing partly outside their field it has limitations. They even acknowledge these limitations on occasion but there is a kind of magician's "sleight of hand" as there so often is with scientists working on brain functioning since they categorically state that dualism is false whilst refusing to go into the debate on qualia to any depth.
What it comes down to is that there is actually no explanation for consciousness here, just a possible direction for establishing a workable NCC framework. Even a fully explicit NCC framework would probably still not properly explain consciousness. At best it would explain it away and that explaining away may fall very short of a proper explanation for what is, after all, the only thing a sentient creature is really certain of - being conscious.
This is a very complex issue (or it has been made into one) and I recommend reading David Chalmer's 'Character of Consciousness' before you make up your mind on this book's more categoric statements about dualism and other philosophical issues (they are not philosophers and they wrote this book prior to Chalmer's book so let's be fair to them on that).Read more ›
Three working assumptions are made as methodological platform; 1) the physics assumption; conventional physical processes are required to explain consciousness or the conscious experience, 2) the evolutionary assumption; consciousness is evolved by natural selection in the animal systems, and 3) qualia assumption; the subjective, qualitative aspects of consciousness, being private, cannot be communicated directly through a scientific theory. The authors do not attempt to explain many forms of perception, imagery, thought, emo¬tion, mood, attention, will, or self-consciousness. Instead, they concentrate on certain fundamental properties of consciousness that are shared by every conscious states, such as the unity of a conscious state experienced as a whole and cannot be subdivided into independent components, and the infor¬mativeness, i.e., where a conscious state is selected from a repertoire of billions of possible conscious states, each with different behavioral consequences within a fraction of a second.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was originally published in 2000, not in 28 November 2013 as suggested for the Kindle version. Read morePublished 16 months ago by C. in London
It's impossible to explain consciousness in some external, rational, scientific way, because we are it. It's the ultimate 'bootstrap' problem.Published 18 months ago by jmak
The 'Product Description' is ideal and I have little to add but my own reflection on the contents of this book... Read morePublished on 4 Aug. 2010 by K Strider
A careful exposition of the results of research into the anatomy and physiology of the intricate neural pathways leads to insights into the nature of human consciousness. Read morePublished on 29 Dec. 2009 by S. Bloxham
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