Thursday, November 15, 2012

Self Comes to Mind-Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio

My notes on the book

Loc 132 "Consciousness is not merely wakefulness"
Loc 172 "This book is dedicated to addressing two questions. First, how does the brain construct a kind? Second how does the brand make the mind conscious?"
Loc 325 "Most of the progress made to date on the neurobiology of conscious minds has been based on combining 3 perspectives: "
direct witness,behavioral, brain
He then goes on to discuss his desire to develop a fourth perspective.

Loc 351 "the lives of cells occur in extraordinary complex universes..."

Loc 360 "Using the fourth perspective ... countless creatures for millions of years have had active minds happening in their brains, but only after those brains developed a protagonist capable of bearing witness did consciousness begin ..."

Loc 487 He makes an analogy comparing consciousness to a conductor in an an orchestra.

Loc 544 "..the facts also authorize us to reject the false impression that our ability to deliberate consciously is a myth"

Loc 580 "The notion that...there are unconscious mind processes is hardly news"

Loc 790 "Is homeostasis enough to guarantee survival? ... Evolution took care ... by introducing devices that allow organisms to anticipate imbalances and that motivate them to explore environments likely to offer solutions"

Loc 818 "the notion of value is central to our understanding of brain evolution, ..."

Loc 844 "In the case of humans in particular, value also relates to the quality of that survival in the form of well-being"

Loc 884 "Plants have no neurons and, in the absence of neurons, never a mind."

Loc 893 "Brains evolved as devices that could improve the business of sensing, deciding, and moving ..."

Loc 913 "reward and punishment, the lead players in the dance of motivated exploration"

Loc 1085 "I am not a substance dualist ..."
Loc 1087 "I was simply indulging in aspect dualism"

Loc 1188 "the images in our minds are given more or less saliency in the mental stream according to their value for the individual. The value comes from the original set of dispositions that orients our life regulation as well as from the valuations that all images we have gradually acquired ..."

Loc 1198 "minds can be non-conscious and conscious"

Loc 1350 "consciousness, namely, feelings connected to an integrated representation of the organism "

Loc 1357 "The degree of sentience, feeling, and emotion that is possible in these cases ..."

Loc 1860 "my view of emotions as active programs". "steps of appraisal tend to be interposed, a filtering and channeling of the stimulus as it makes it's way through the brain and is led eventually to the trigger region. The appraisal stage can be very brief and non conscious, but it needs to be acknowledged."

Loc 1998 "Emotions and their underlying phenomena are so essential for the maintenance of life ..."

Loc 2007 "we have the possibility of controlling, in part, our emotional expressions"

Loc 2316 "Our knowledge base is implicit, encrypted, and unconscious."

Loc 2438 "consciousness is a state of mind in which there is knowledge of one's own existence and of the existence of surroundings"

Loc 2446 "Finally, our provisional definition must say that conscious states of mind are possible only when we are awake, although a partial exception ... Dreaming"

Loc 2476 "dream consciousness is not standard consciousness"

Loc 2479 "Turning the lights off is not an accurate analogy; lowering a dimmer switch is closer to the mark."

Loc 2508 "in coma, a situation in which all phenomena associated with consciousness (wakefulness, mind, and self) appear to be absent

Loc 2576 "Being awake, having a mind, and having a self are different brain processes, concocted by the operation of different brain components. They merge seamlessly ... Inside our brains, permitting and revealing different manifestations of behavior."

Loc 2602 "...just as signs of emotion are part of the externally observable conscious state, experiences of bodily feelings are a deep and vital part of consciousness from a first-person, introspective perspective."

Loc 2765 "Consciousness offers a direct experience of mind, but the broker of the experience is a self, which is internal and imperfectly constructed informer rather than an external reliable observer.

Loc 2832 "The ongoing digital revolution, the globalization of cultural information,, and the coming of the age of empathy are pressures likely to lead to structural modifications of mind and self, by which I mean modifications of the very brain processes that shape mind and self"

Loc 2901 "Boredom plays havoc with wakefulness....." ... "Alcohol increases wake fullness at first, only to induce sleepiness later ..."

Loc 3909 "No set of conscious images of any kind and on any topic ever fails to be accompanied by an obedient choir of emotions and consequent feelings"

Loc 3915 "In a small range of real life situations, the obligate Qualia I accompaniment may be reduced ... The most benign would come from the effect of any drug capable of shutting down emotional responsivity..."

Loc 4116 "Consciousness came of age by first restraining part of the non conscious executives and then exploring them mercilessly to carry out per planned, per decided actions. " "When we walk home thinking about the solution of a problem rather than about the route we take, but still do get home safe and sound, we have accepted the benefits of a non conscious skill that was acquired in previous exercises. " ... " Much the same applies to the professional behaviors of musicians and athletes ...practice ... The second nature that can guide you to Carnegie Hall."

Loc 4122 "... The conscious-unconscious cooperative interplay also applies in full to moral behaviors. Moral behaviors are a skill set, acquired over repeated practice sessions and over a long time, informed by consciously articulated principles and reasons but otherwise second natured into cognitive unconscious."

Loc 4129 "...what is meant by conscious deliberation has little to do with the ability to control actions in the moment and everything to do with the ability to plan ahead ... "

Loc 4150 "Split second vetoes remind us of a well known recommendation: Just say no. This strategy may be adequate when one has to preempt an innocuous finger movement, but to when one needs to stop an action urged by a strong desire ... Successful nay-saying requires a lengthy conscious preparation."

loc 4318 Spinoza seems to have had the right idea when he said that an emotion with negative consequences could be countered only by another, more powerful emotion. ... The non conscious device must be trained by the conscious mind to deliver an emotional counterpunch."

To be continued

Possible topic questions:
1. How do you define "self"? Are you OK defining the self in terms of biological knowledge pertaining to the past as well as anticipated future?
2. At loc 818, Damasio poses this question: "... what are the yardsticks against which value is measured?"
3. How do you like this definition of consciousness: ""consciousness is a state of mind in which there is knowledge of one's own existence and of the existence of surroundings"
4. How much do you think (thru training) you can change what emotions your brain generates? For instance, do Navy Seals get trained to reduce the fear response?

5. what are you willing to kill? Exclude self defense as a motivating factor.
Cows and other mammals
Humans in a vegetative state
If yes to some bobutno to others, why? What is the difference?

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