Inventing the Self

The Dialogue

September 24th, 2013 by Yitian Liao · 3 Comments

Q: How will you response to Henry Molasion?

Noe: Even though part of the brain is removed, such a person could still act consciously like other normal people. Consciousness is not in the brain; it requires the connections with the body for its nourishment and for its connection with the environment. We need brain to create consciousness, even if only with just part of it.
Damasio: Agreed, the brain is not the only part that produces consciousness; there is a mechanical process of connection between the brain and the body, that is, the body-mapping structures of brain.  The brain needs to be structured in order for the conscious mind to generate. This is within the organism. And beyond that, there is an interaction between organism and an object, where images of objects and the organism are linked in a coherent pattern. However, I don’t think Molasion could fully fill my requirements for being totally self-conscious.  He missed the last stage of my process: the extended self. He couldn’t remember the past for long!
Noe: First of all, consciousness is not something the brain produces, it is something we do.
Damasio: But you still need the brain to do it.
Noe: Yes, I mean, I’m emphasizing the importance of the whole organism, not just the brain. For example, what do you think is the main thing that drives your car?
Damasio: The engine?
 Noe: What about the wheels?
Damasio: Okay, they are also important.
Noe: Actually the whole mechanical system drives the car; and furthermore, you still need fuel for it to run. My point is the brain may be part of, but IS THE core part in this system. Consciousness is not strictly a brain phenomenon but an organism phenomenon. The substrate of consciousness includes features of the organism, the whole thing, and shouldn’t be limited to the brain. Besides, consciousness to me is not internal state or representation of external behavior; it is what enables an exchange between the person or animal and the world. He can still speak/ interact with the environment or the world, he is conscious.
Damasion: Well then, at least we both think that consciousness is embodied, not embrained.
——
but what is actually going on in my head is like this:
Damasion: what a poor guy.
Noe: Yes, his brain was sliced and broadcasted to the whole world, do you know how many hit we got?
Damasion: How many?
Noe: over 3 million.
Damasion: What the….Sorry I’m a well-educated gentleman, so WHAT A SURPRISE!

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3 responses so far ↓

  • Kristina Bodetti // Sep 25th 2013 at 1:58 pm

    A nice dialogue. You definitely captured what the 2 authors have in common, that is, the brain as part of a bigger scheme. I think they’d have a bit more to disagree about then you showed. I do enjoy the humorous version at the end, though!

  • Jason Tougaw (he/him/his) // Sep 25th 2013 at 4:03 pm

    The second version is interesting! It illustrates a pretty common divide between our professional responses and our gut responses. It would be interesting to think about whether it’s a worthwhile aim to try to bridge these.

  • matthew finston // Sep 25th 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Yeah, I like the second conversation. I kind of want to see how these guys perceive their work. What do they hope to get out of it. What are their politics, their aspirations, motivations, feelings of insecurity. What compels them to educate us plebiscites?

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