Solving “one of the last great problems in science”

V. S. Ramachandran is not shy. Far from it.

Not only does he believe the “riddle of consciousness” to be “one of the last great problems in science,” but he also believes that except for that pesky qualia problem neuroscientists like him will solve the mystery of the self in no time. The next generation or two, tops.

Ramachandran’s enthusiasm extends further. He is fond of throwing suppositions and speculations at the problem of self. Maybe it’s this. Then there’s that. And what about ….

Ramachandran’s optimism is tied to his enthusiasm for brain scans — especially scans of the brains of those sufferers of neurological disorders who are Ramachandran’s typical study subjects.

His views are condensed into “Self Awareness: The Last Frontier,” an EDGE¬†essay. Continue reading

Are human brains unique?

The point is that any human activity can be seemingly atomized.
But to be swooned by such a fact is to miss the point of human experience.
Michael Gazzaniga

Last time, I reported on Stanislas Dehaene’s speculation that we have higher-order consciousness because the brain evolved a dynamic interactivity that goes far beyond the this-part-does-that structure of other mammal brains.

One top-shelf neuroscientist with complementary views is Michael Gazzaniga, who declared in Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique that our rush to identify cognitive equivalancies in other species is understandable but may be misdirected. Continue reading

Philosophy as a cognitive psychology guidepost

A while back, I posted my reaction to the emergence of “experimental philosophy,” a hot new area of study at a few trend-setting New England universities, where philosophers test their theories by conducting psychological experiments.

Now, some psychologists are returning the favour, arguing that persistent philosophical dilemmas can be useful road maps to conflict points in our cognitive systems. Continue reading