The Conscious Mind (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
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How did the human mind emerge from the collection of neurons that makes up the brain? How did the brain acquire self-awareness, functional autonomy, language, and the ability to think, to understand itself and the world? In this volume in the Essential Knowledge series, Zoltan Torey offers an accessible and concise description of the evolutionary breakthrough that created the human mind. Drawing on insights from evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and linguistics, Torey reconstructs the sequence of events by which Homo erectus became Homo sapiens. He describes the augmented functioning that underpins the emergent mind -- a new ("off-line") internal response system with which the brain accesses itself and then forms a selection mechanism for mentally generated behavior options. This functional breakthrough, Torey argues, explains how the animal brain's "awareness" became self-accessible and reflective -- that is, how the human brain acquired a conscious mind. Consciousness, unlike animal awareness, is not a unitary phenomenon but a composite process. Torey's account shows how protolanguage evolved into language, how a brain subsystem for the emergent mind was built, and why these developments are opaque to introspection. We experience the brain's functional autonomy, he argues, as free will. Torey proposes that once life began, consciousness had to emerge -- because consciousness is the informational source of the brain's behavioral response. Consciousness, he argues, is not a newly acquired "quality," "cosmic principle," "circuitry arrangement," or "epiphenomenon," as others have argued, but an indispensable working component of the living system's manner of functioning.
rendered it suitable for its role in the brain’s language-based experience. The way corrective distortions work is best illustrated by the experimental neurosis paradigm. In this, the experimental subject, a dog, learns to associate the figure of a circle with a food reward and the figure of an ellipse with an electric shock. Next, the circle presentations are increasingly flattened to approximate an ellipse, while the ellipse presentations get gradually rounded out to approximate a circle.
Wide Shut?” New Scientist, April 30, 2005 In an article in the January 2011 issue of Scientific American entitled “100 Trillion Connections,” the eminent science writer Carl Zimmer had this to say: A single neuron sits in a petri dish, crackling in lonely contentment. From time to time, it spontaneously unleashes a wave of electric current that travels down its length. If you deliver pulses of electricity to one end of the cell, the neuron may respond with extra spikes of voltage. Bathe the
exist as images only in the cerebral cortex and cannot be fully imaged in the brain stem. The interdependence of cortex and brainstem is clear but not new. What is new is the option-generating role of the cortex. It floods the brainstem’s decision making, which, though still determined by biological values, now has to respond to material that is mind generated and is an expression of the person’s disposition, interest, and character. Regarding this causal role of the mind, it must be stressed
illustrate the point that experience and conscious experience are different phenomena, Chalmers (1996) speaks of a hypothetical twin of his, who has the identical experience and the identical response to this experience as Chalmers himself but, unlike Chalmers, is not conscious of it. This has the absurd implication that to be conscious of an ongoing event makes no difference to one’s response to it. It also means that we should regard consciousness as a passive and inconsequential epiphenomenon,
self-reflective version, we face a critical distinction. What we are conscious of is no longer just the sensory totalization of the brain, but an augmented product that features the additional output of a new, off-line response mechanism. This mechanism, with its expressive arm of language, generates images and thoughts that are displayed in the endogram, together with the proprioception of their genesis. The hybrid character of the human endogram means that the brainstem is also responding to