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

By Gerald M. Edelman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
Higher Products: Thoughts, Judgments, Emotions

There is in us something wiser than our head. -- Arthur Schopenhauer

How can a book on the matter of the mind pay so little attention to thinking, willing, and judging, or to feeling, emotion, and dreaming? Partly, this has to do with my original intentions, which were to describe the necessary bases for consciousness and meaning in a scientific fashion. I have attempted this in the faith that further and more sufficient psychological explorations can be launched once this description is substantiated. To pursue any one of these higher products of the mind's working would require a separate book. Nevertheless, I want to comment here on how our theses about the mind may be connected to psychological activities.

Consciousness is considered by some to be the same as thinking. I think this is too crude an identification, for thought has additional acquired components: a complex of images, intentions, guesses, and logical reasoning. It is a mixture of several levels of mental activity. At its highest and most abstract reaches, it is a skill, one that depends on symbolic abilities. With the exception of the spatial abilities exhibited in artistic thinking and the tonal and rhythmic activities of musical thinking, higher thought depends strongly on both language and logic, on an inner dialogue between the thinker and another "interlocutor" of whose existence the thinker may not be aware. This is the "two in one" to which Hannah Arendt refers in

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