The mind’s I

Reader Michael P. alerted us to this book review from the good doctor that we missed. In his analysis of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman, Dalrymple again dissents from those who claim to have plucked out the heart of mankind’s mystery.
Here is an addition to the fast-growing genre of books that claim scientific authority for the idea that we are, at base, not much different from the bacteria. Of course, this idea depends on what we consider important, and importance is a non-natural quality. Over and over again, the author stresses the insignificance of self-consciousness and self-reflexivity. He is both right and wrong to do so. It is perfectly true that an awful lot goes on in our nervous system (and elsewhere in our bodies) of which we are unaware; it could hardly be otherwise. But it is also true that a plug is only a tiny proportion of a bath’s mass or volume. This does not make it unimportant, at least for a bath’s most obvious functions.
….
Modern neurosciences, he tells us, complete the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. The earth is no longer the centre of the universe, and man is no longer the paragon of animals. ‘A mere 400 years after our fall from the center of the universe’, he tells us confidently, ‘we have experienced the fall from the center of ourselves’.
But the whole argument of his book is that there is no ‘we’ to fall, because there is no ‘I’; there has never been an I, it is an impossibility that there should have been. But if we are capable of falling from the centre of ourselves, we must exist; therefore there is no metaphysical need for us to deny our own existence.

6 thoughts on “The mind’s I

  1. jaxon

    Man no longer the Paragon of animals!
    My self esteem has been most cruelly winded… deflated? Prozac, I need.

    “But the whole argument of his book is that there is no ‘we’ to fall, because there is no ‘I’; there has never been an I, it is an impossibility that there should have been. But if we are capable of falling from the centre of ourselves, we must exist; therefore there is no metaphysical need for us to deny our own existence.”

    Perhaps it’s something like parachuting, free-fall, bungy jump?
    The suspension of disbelief – like an enjoyable movie – I suspend my… erm… my I, spend money (it’s not mine), on his book to finance the pastimes of his I, to reward the efforts of his I?

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  2. jaxon

    Actually a book called ‘The Diminished i’ might be a good idea – iPlayer, iPhone, iPod… i do this, i do that etc

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  3. jaxon

    Thinking about this some more… Copernican and Darwinian revolutions? Rather grand stuff, and I’m quite intrigued by the ‘greater scheme of things’ as it were.

    But I think it tends to get back to the paradox of the diminished i… the modern world is so fluid (what Zygmunt Bauman refers to as liquid; I’ve not read much Bauman, mind) People don’t own themselves… the ego tends to be ‘here and now’ i want, i want… presumably on the presumption of ‘i deserve’ – but the i lacks prIde, in the good sense… deep down people of the diminished i are probably ashamed, hey, I know the feeling.

    Certain intellectuals seem fond of grand notions of consciousness, as in “A New Consciousness” but where is the conscience in all this? Okay that’s primarily for the individual to decide.

    For me it’s virtually meaningless to think of my consciousness as apart from my conscience – consciousness, whilst important as a concept, seems to me, too much the stuff that scientific theories, not dreams… destiny, are made on and this pervades society.

    It’s mechanistic – “the beer went mad… you see? There it is, on the MRI, told you! So give me the f****** methadone or my brain’ll kick up a shitstorm!”

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