Inventing the Self


September 18th, 2013 by Adam Wagner · 1 Comment

It’s not my week to post, but I feel the need to pose a question that hasn’t been addressed.  Is Damasio positing anything new?  Unfortunately, we only read the first four chapters, so I am cannot say with certainty that he doesn’t posit something later, as the book develops.  However, as I was reading this, I couldn’t help to feel that underneath the scientific language, it was a history report.  At no point did I feel that he was challenging any of the hypotheses or data available (other than his seeming disdain for his lack of credit in mirror neurons since he predicted this with as-if).  I find self to develop completely biologically, while the phenomenology and richness of individual self to be the combination of the vast differences in experience combined with genetic makeup and biological continuity.  I feel this all developed evolutionarily across time.  This evolution is incomplete (due to the lack of proof and ability to examine the historical evidence and linkage) however, hypotheses can be developed.  To me, in the 4 chapters, Damasio never really branches off from this or challenge this and I was left wanting development in the argument of consciousness or self.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Jason Tougaw (he/him/his) // Sep 18th 2013 at 2:02 pm

    It’s a good question– and the answers are complicated. Damasio has set out to synthesize available evidence in order to propose his “framework” for explaining the origins of consciousness and the relationship between physiology and selfhood. Some of that evidence comes from his own lab or his own practice. Much of it comes from others. Plenty of it is historical.

    But: Damasio argument about about the particulars is his own–meaning the relationships between organism and environment, the role of neural maps (body schema), the proto self, etc. And he is among a few of neuroscientists to propose brain stem activity as the origin for the foundations of consciousness.

    He elaborates on all this in subsequent chapters, but much of it is there in the early ones. (He gets fairly repetitive as the book develops.)

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