By Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi
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Additional resources for A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
Qxd 18 6/24/04 A 12:11 PM UNIVERSE OF Page 18 CONSCIOUSNESS Our strategy in attacking this problem is unusual. We do not attempt to explain everything—the many forms of perception, imagery, thought, emotion, mood, attention, will, and self-consciousness—and are not lured by the extraordinary variety of conscious phenomena. Instead, we concentrate on certain fundamental properties of consciousness, general properties that are shared by every conscious state. As we discuss in the next chapter, such properties include unity—the fact that each conscious state is experienced as a whole that cannot be subdivided into independent components—and informativeness—the fact that within a fraction of a second, each conscious state is selected from a repertoire of billions and billions of possible conscious states, each with different behavioral consequences.
Though less vivid and less rich in detail than sensory percepts, thought, inner speech, and conscious imagery are all powerful reminders that a conscious scene can be constructed even in the absence of external inputs. Dreams are the most striking demonstration of this fact. 1 Rousseau’s painting Virgin Forest with Setting Sun (1910, Kunstmuseum, Basel), an apt emblem for the kinds of order and complexity within a working brain, provided that one removes the man and the jaguar. qxd 22 6/24/04 A 12:11 PM UNIVERSE OF Page 22 CONSCIOUSNESS Consciousness can be passive as well as active and effortful.
Our brain, presenting itself as a fleeting and minor actor on the stage of consciousness that most of us have never seen, seems to hold the key to the entire performance. As we are all too painfully aware when we enter a hospital, any insult to our brain may permanently modify our entire world. Indeed, we can be annihilated by a simple chemical, anesthetic, or toxin, acting on our brain. In order to give readers a better understanding about this remarkable organ, we first provide some basic information on the structure and dynamics of the brain and of its cells or neurons.
A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination by Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi