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

By Gerald M. Edelman | Go to book overview

MIND WITHOUT BIOLOGY: A CRITICAL POSTSCRIPT

No one likes to spend much time being critical when there is creative work to do. But in order to explain why the kind of biological theory put forth in this book is needed, I have to do a bit of bashing--to criticize several received ideas and established points of view. As I stated in the body of this book, a number of prevailing views about consciousness and the mind are simply untenable, however well established they may be. Why bother with them at all? There are two reasons. First, they are dangerously seductive; sooner or later even the uninitiated reader will run into one or another version of them. And second, a critical analysis of these notions helps to define further the nature of our task, which is to show how the mind is embodied.

There is a third reason: wrong as they may be, these views--that strange physics may hold the key, that the brain is a computer, that we have a kind of built-in language machine in our head--are interesting, whatever their deficiencies. But to convey that interest involves presenting some tedious detail and some rather abstract arguments that would have interrupted my descriptions of the biology of the brain. Therefore I have decided to save my critique of these views for this Postscript.

My goal is to dispel the notion that the mind can be understood in the absence of biology. What I am presenting here are not afterthoughts; they are extensions of points made in the body of the book, intended for the experts but also for the curious who may want to know more.

Readers should not be surprised that the discussion encompasses large numbers of disciplines and jumps from one to the next. The hardest to grasp are perhaps cognitive science and linguistics, both abstract multidisci-

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