Edelman Gerald & Tononi Giulio:
A UNIVERSE OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Basic, 2000)


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(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )


After a survey of the classical philosophical theories of mind, and a survey of the modern neurological theories of the brain, the authors tackle the mind-body problem: how does consciousness emerge from the physical processes of the brain?

Their "dynamic core hypothesis" turns out to be a variant of William James' stream of consciousness.

Consciousness is unified and a "whole", but nothing in the brain seems to be unified and a "whole". The brain is made of a multitude of regions that exhibit independent personalities. The only way that consciousness can be in the brain is if there is a process of neurons that work together, that fire in a synchronized fashion, a massive, coherent activity by all regions of the brain, that trascends the individual activity of each region. Edelman and Tononi have found that coherent activity originating from the thalamocortical system, that could therefore be the "dynamic core" of consciousness. Basically, consciousness is a process that happens throughout the brain, not manufactured in a specific region.

At the same time, the authors show that the thalamocortical system is crucial for the "dynamic core" to produce consciousness.

This theory is a generalization of the concept of "reentry" (the bidirectional interaction of groups of neurons) that has always been fundamental in Edelman's theory.

At the end, the authors also speculate on language and the self but, as in previous books, Edelman's arguments sound still immature.

The book provides a plausible candidate for what causes the conscious feeling that we experience, but fails to explain how matter can turn into feelings. For all the properties of consciousness that they list, the authors fail to grasp the essence of consciousness: I "feel" that I am myself.