Now is a Great Time to be Studying Human Nature
I'm very optimistic that we can make breakthroughs precisely by trying to take steps in the direction of a more integrated, contextualized neuroscience of consciousness.
Alva Noë is a writer and a philosopher who lives in New York City and Berkeley. His work focuses on the nature of mind and human experience. He is the author of Action in Perception (The MIT Press, 2004), Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009), Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012), and Strange Tools (2015). Noë, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1995, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He has been Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has recently begun a performative-lecture collaboration with Deborah Hay. Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a weekly contributor to National Public Radio's science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture.
I think that this is a very exciting time to be studying human nature. Often people say it’s exciting because of the tremendous breakthroughs we’re making in understanding the brain and the new technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging. But I disagree with that, that it’s the new breakthroughs in our study of the brain that are making this an interesting time.
But there is no question that the international community of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, linguists and philosophers and others who are devoting themselves to these questions is more vibrant than it has been ever before. I want to underline that my own criticism of recent neuro-scientific approaches to consciousness is not a criticism of the scientific study of consciousness. It’s urging that the science gets better and that it shed certain straight jacketing individualistic, internalistic assumptions, assumptions that are really holding a general science of human nature back.
But I'm very optimistic that we can make breakthroughs precisely by trying to take steps in the direction of a more integrated, contextualized neuroscience of consciousness.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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