Monday, October 19, 2009

Out of Our Heads: Challenging Materialist Notions of Consciousness

One of the areas that is of interest to me in theological reflection is the question of human consciousness and all the issues it raises, such as how we can trust our experience of self and the world as real and not illusion. Much of the scientific community explains consciousness as nothing more than the actions of the brain. This assumption is challenged with a book byAlva Noë titled Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (Hill & Wang, 2009). See the discussion of Noë's revolutionary challenge to materialist understandings of consciousness in this religion dispatches article. The book can be ordered via Amazon.com here.

2 comments:

TonyTheProf said...

Sounds interesting. I remember Karl Popper and John Eccles chaellinging traditional notions as a philosopher and neuroscientist in "The Self and Its Brain".

I suppose one of the first challenge to the materialist notions of consciousness come against David Hume by Thomas Reid, the Scottish philosopher of the "commensense school" with his "Inquiry into the Human Mind".

One of the striking arguments he made which is still valid is that no one who believes the materialist notion of consciousness actually behaves as if they believe it to be true, and there must be something astray with a philosophy which has so much irrelevance to behaviour.

Steve said...

An excellent book on the topic is "The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory" by a philosopher, David J. Chalmers. (1997) He shows the inadequacy of the reductionist school of thought. It was of great benefit in aiding me to find a way out of a purely mechanistic view of things. It has to do with emergent properties and the principle of supervenience.