In “Human consciousness is much more than mere brain activity,” Mark Vernon writes, “When we meditate or use our powers of perception, we call on more than just a brain” (The Guardian, June17, 2011):
How does the animated meat inside our heads produce the rich life of the mind? Why is it that when we reflect or meditate we have all manner of sensations and thoughts but never feel neurons firing? It’s called the “hard problem”, and it’s a problem the physician, philosopher and author Raymond Tallis believes we have lost sight of – with potentially disastrous results.Vernon, reviewing Raymond Tallis’s new book Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity, offers,
What is astonishing about this rampant reductionism is that it is based on a conceptual muddle that is readily unpicked. Sure, you need a brain to be alive, but to be human is not to be a brain. Think of it this way: you need legs to walk, but you’d never say that your legs are walking. The same conflation can be exposed in a more complex way by reflecting on the phenomenon of perception. It is what we do every moment of the waking day. You’re doing it right now: casting an eye to the paper in front of you and seeing words on a page. But if you were just a brain, you would not see words. There’d be just the gentle buzz of neuronal activity in the intracranial darkness.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose