Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noe
Some of my students are chomping at the bit this year, eager to study the topic of human consciousness. We will get there in a few weeks, and I don't blame them for their enthusiasm. It's hard to imagine a more fascinating subject. If you are looking for some outside reading consciousness that will bend your mind to some degree, I'd recommend this book.
Alva Noe's basic thesis in Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness is that neuroscientists hoping to uncover the "seat" of consciousness in the brain via fMRI's and similar techniques are bound to be disappointed.
Noe presents - with convincing support - the idea that consciousnes is a process created by our experiences with the world, including the reactions of our sensory systems. In essence, the disembodied brain would be unable to have a "conscious" experience because consciousness is tied up in all of the other things that make us human.
I appreciate the argument, and it is interesting to consider. But I did find myself feeling a little defensive about how easily Noe dismissed the work of neuroscientists and neuroimaging. Certainly, consciousness might be a more slippery concept than we first imagine. But that doesn't mean that neuroimaging studies of the brain are unimportant to our understanding of human consciousness, and sometimes I felt Noe was moving toward that idea.
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