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8/6/09

Antonio Damasio: Consciousness Is Not Beyond The Reach of Human Intelligence

Yesterday's post had Colin McGinn, in which he asserted that the gap between brain and mind will never be bridged. Not so says Antonio Damasio, who believes that we have the rational ability to understand consciousness in its relationship to the brain.

Damasio has written Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, and Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Noted for his hypothesis on somatic markers. Damasio argues that all decision-making involves an emotional component. In fact, when faced with alternatives of high uncertainty and ambiguity, our cognitive processes can become overloaded. At such times, somatic markers can kick in to help us. These markers are chemically stored in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and provide us associations to help influence our decisions.

As for his view on consciousness, he believes that we should not regard it as an enduring mystery. "Some philosophers maintain that solving the problem of consciousness is beyond the reach of human intelligence. This is very odd and, I believe, untrue. It fits a sensible intuition that the mind is something special and different, separable from the brain, but the fact that the intuition is sensible does not make it right." More

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