Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind

By Gerald M. Edelman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Layers and Loops: A Summary

It seems to me that the human race stands on the brink of a major breakthrough. We have advanced to the point where we can put our hand on the hem of the curtain that separates us from an understanding of the nature of our minds. Is it conceivable that we will withdraw our hand and turn back through discouragement and lack of vision?

-- Percy Williams Bridgman

It is high time for another view of the mental, for a neuroscientific model of the mind. What makes the one proposed here new is that it is based remorselessly on physics and biology. It is also based on the ideas of evolutionary morphology and selection, and it rejects the notion that a syntactical description of mental operations and representations (see the Postscript) suffices to explain the mind. Others have held similar positions but have not united them in a single evolutionarily based theory, one that connects embryology, morphology, physiology, and psychology. Only such a physically based theory of mind is open to disconfirmation by scientific means.

The road connecting these disciplines is a bumpy one and, as the reader has seen, traveling the route is occasionally strenuous. This is because, in the construction of the mind, so many levels of organization are required and so many interactive loops have to be made to link what at first appear to be disparate layers of description. Given that the mind is a result of evolution and not of logical planning, I would not expect a different outcome. This

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