29 September 2009


Alva Noe. Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons From the Biology of Consciousness. Hill and Wang, 2009

If paranormalists, seeing the title of this book, think the author, a professor of Philosophy and member of the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, is going to support their belief that consciousness is some kind of etheric stuff which can float around operating tables, they are going to be disappointed.
If anything Noe's thesis is even more ‘materialistic’ than the more conventional accounts of neuroscience. 

It is that while the brain is necessary for consciousness, it is not sufficient. Consciousness instead arises from the embodied brain of the total being in interaction with the physical and social environment.

He rejects the idea that isolated brains in vats could be conscious or, if they are, that consciousness is the result of the interaction of the brain and its surrogate, mechanical, body with the whole environment. Associated with this thesis, Noe also rejects constructivist approach to perception, the idea that the world we experience is a model of the world constructed by the brain, it is unclear to the extent that he is substituting a more naively realistic approach. Though he discusses dreams to some extent, he does not cover synaethesia or the sort of experiences with which Magonia deals, which might suggest a more constructivist view of perception. -- Peter Rogerson.

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