We Are Not the Brain – Alva Noe on Consciousness at salon.com


You are not your brain.

Instead of asking how the brain makes us conscious, we should ask, How does the brain support the kind of involvement with the world in which our consciousness consists? –  –

Galileo said that the apple in your hand is colorless, odorless and flavorless. That color and so on are effects that the apple has on you, comparable to the sensation of the prick of a pin. The flavor of the apple, he said, is no more in the apple than the prickliness is in the pin. The taste and the prickliness are in you. Galileo thought we were radically deceived by the world around us. The contemporary neuroscientists simply extend this even further — this idea that the world is a kind of grand illusion that the brain creates.

Sure, it’s an important fact that the perception of colors depends on the physics of light and the nature of the nervous system. If our physiology were different, our ability to detect colors would be different. But none of that speaks to the unreality of color, any more than saying that I can’t see anything in my room if I turn the lights off speaks to the unreality of my desk. We’ve almost made a fetish of this desire to be told that things are not what they seem. We get a thrill from the paradox.

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