March 25, 2009
The Dalai Lama was taken to task when he suggested that there was more to consciousness than its neural components. Now, from a somewhat different point of view, UC Berkeley philosophy professor Alva Noe is arguing that three's more to consciousness than gray matter. In a Salon interview about his recent book Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, Noe lays out his argument. Unlike many Buddhists, though, he is not arguing for the immateriality of mind, rather:
The brain is necessary for consciousness. Of course! Just as an engine is necessary in a car. But an engine doesn't "give rise" to driving; driving isn't something that happens inside the engine. The engine contributes to the car's ability to drive. Consciousness is more like driving than our philosophical tradition leads us to expect. To be conscious is to have a world. The fact is, you and I don't have what it takes to make a world on our own. We find the world, we don't make it in our brains.
For Noe, consciousness is a fluid exchange between people and their environment, with permeable boundaries between brain, body and world, which engage in the "joint venture" of consciousness.
It begins to sound a bit like interdependent co-arising...