The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Phantoms in the Brain

By analyzing different kinds of brain damage, and the feelings associated with phantom limbs (people with missing limbs can still feel pain in those non-existent limbs), the Indian neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran concluded that the brain constructs cognitive maps that are, basically, plausible interpretations of the world. It is those maps that cause all mental life, starting from perception itself. For example, the limb is no longer there, but its representation in the brain is still there, and thus the person feels it as if it were still there. Whether it is truly there or not is negligible compared with the fact that it is represented in the brain. By generalization all mental life could be "phantom", because that is a general behavior of the brain.

All sensory experience is an illusion. All feelings are illusions. Even the self consists of an illusion, largely constructed out of interactions with others. The brain creates these representations of different kinds (from representations of limbs to representations of the i) and then believes that they truly exist and they get associated with feelings. (Thus the solution to the pain caused by a phantom limb would be to induce the brain to believe that the phantom limb does not exist anymore, i.e. to remove the representation of that limb in the brain).

In a sense, the entire body is a "phantom limb": the brain constructs its existence and then "feels" it.


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