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"

Beyond the brain

How the brain came to be is a long and convoluted story. The brain is made of several regions that evolved at different times and probably for different purposes, and eventually got locked together in the same organ. It is likely that these different circuits had to adapt to each other and to the other organs of the body. Ultimately, the brain had to make sense in the context of itself and of the whole body. What didn't fit in the overall picture was probably fixed by natural selection.

The brain is a Darwinian system, within which the concepts of competition and self-organization are much more important than the ones of design or organization. The brain is a battlefield. Of all possible million configurations at each point in time one is chosen that best fits our experience. Far from being a well-determined logical system, the brain is a chaotic system of trial and error. It is all the more amazing that I can say “i”, because my “i”, if it is due to my brain, changes all the time, and i have no control over the way my “i” changes: it is experience, not my free will, that selects which connections will get stronger and which ones will die out. I have no more control on the evolution of my thoughts than i have on the evolution of my species.

Over the 19th century we learned to admit our fundamental inability to affect the evolution of our species, and of life in general. A far more powerful force, natural selection, takes care of that. We are simply pawns, created more or less by accident, and doomed to be eventually replaced by other pawns in this eccentric game of life.

Over the 20th century we began to realize that we are also powerless to affect the evolution of our brain, of our own selves. We, at the level of the individual, seem to be in the hands of far more powerful forces that mold our brains regardless of what we would like to be.

Ultimately, our brain is not “ours”.

Consciousness is the mysterious entity that somehow enters the picture through the very same brain that we discovered is outside our sphere of influence but that at the same time somehow, we believe, grants us a degree of freedom in thinking, feeling and, ultimately, being what we are.

 


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