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

By Gerald M. Edelman | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

I started this book by telling you I thought its subject was the most important one imaginable. This statement is obviously true in the sense that without a mind there is neither a subject (you or I) nor any subject matter. But I hope our trip through the layers and loops--from molecules to mind and back again even to fundamental particles--has persuaded you of another, less obvious aspect of the importance of neurobiology: that without an understanding of how the mind is based in matter, we will be left with a vast chasm between scientific knowledge and knowledge of ourselves.

This chasm is not unbridgeable. But biology and psychology teach us that the bridge is made of many parts. The solution to the problem of how we know, feel, and are aware is not contained in a philosophical sentence, however profound. It must emerge from an understanding of how biological systems and relationships evolved in the physical world.

When that evolution resulted in language, the imaginable world became infinite. There is great beauty and much hope in the realization of this open-endedness of imagination. But we must continually return from that world to the world of matter if we are to see how as conscious observers we are actually placed within our own descriptions. Analyzing that placement will be one of the major goals of the science of the future.

What form this science will take, it would be foolish to predict. It is sufficient and consoling to know that, whatever form it takes, the conscious life it describes will always remain richer than its description.

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