A common thread throughout both Damasio’s and Dehaene’s work relate to the concept of dualism which indicate the mind as separate from the material self. One thing that both excites and at the same time perplexes me in Dehaene’s “Consciousness and the Brain”, is the comparison made between the autonomous mind” and the wandering soul that is essentially the “soul bird which delivers psyche to new born babies and takes it away from the dying” (2). Dehaene’s description of, “freedom of the conscious mind” (3), confuses me because consciousness and the mind are inked to the immaterial concept of the soul, which is assumed to be free-flowing. Does this make our consciousness transferable? In other words, can the same way that we experience the world be moved to a new host? I do not believe that this is the case based on Dehaene’s inclusion of the “phenomenal awareness” theory, which promotes the idea of how “unique” and “personal” traits contribute to the way people experience consciousness (9-10). Therefore, I was confused as to the way in which Dehaene depicted the mind as “free-flying”. The graphic novel, Neurocomic by Hana Ros and Matteo Farinella closely relates to the concept of dualism through the way in which it primarily focuses on biological functions and mention little about the mind, but rather allude to the mind as being separate from neurological processes. Neurocomic also briefly explores the idea of consciousness by creating disparities between the reader and the characters on page in allowing the characters to realize and vocalize that they are actually fictional characters in a book. This meta element furthers my curiosity because, according to Dehaene’s awareness theory, the fabricated characters are exercising a form of consciousness by knowing that they are not real (just to play with some ideas).
Continuing with the concept of consciousness is Damasio, who explores the “biological knowing of self” (4). Unlike Dehaene, Damasio seeks to understand how neurological patterns influence consciousness. One curious element in Damasio’s “Stepping into the Light”, is the situation described in the subheading, “Absent Without Leave”. This situation made me think of Dehaene’s idea about “genuine consciousness”, which is that, “whatever we decide to focus on, may become conscious” (9). The subject that Damasio was observing focused on various things such as the “flower vase” and “cup of coffee” but was not conscious of it. The problem in this situation was caused by epilepsy which is abnormal brain activity, therefore, is consciousness a product of the brain or is the brain an inhibitor of consciousness?
I was further perplexed by Damasio’s neurological perspective when reading “Self Comes to Mind”, because in this work the author addresses many ideas linked to dualism. One of the points that the author makes about consciousness, is that, “love would never have been love, just sex” (4). Basically, consciousness has to do with the way we individually experience emotions. This also relates to the ideas of dualism in Plato’s, The Symposium. According to Plato, love is an experience of the mind or intellect which is to be held in higher regard, rather than just a physical attraction and gratification which will eventually fade. Does this then mean, that Damasio also supports the dualistic perspective as well as neurological thought? If not, I am not sure how both love and sex can be defined in the physical realm.