Sunday’s Big Idea
Today's Big Idea: Understanding Consciousness
Where does consciousness come from?
It's a question that has preoccupied philosophers from Descartes to Pascal to Alva Noë, an "externalist" who theorizes that perception is always a work in process, arising rather than existing from our connections with the world. Noë takes issue with Descartes and with genetics pioneer Francis Crick, who are separated by centuries and yet both seem to make the same unsubstantiated assumption that consciousness is internal, located in the individual self rather than the world around us.
The esteemed neuroscientist Eric Kandel respectfully disagrees, arguing in favor of reductionism -- but that doesn't mean that he sees the human mind as any less sacred. Perhaps, as Richard Dawkins argues, consciousness is such a vague and overwhelming question that it can only be satisfactorily addressed by philosophers, biologists, and neurologists working in tandem to eke out an understanding of one of the hardest problems there is.