THE SOURCE: “Neurotrash” by Raymond Tallis, in Prospect, June 2011.
If you subscribe to The Wilson Quarterly, you are probably fond of reading. Where do you think that predilection comes from? A neural circuitry over which you have little control, or an amalgam of factors, including education and parental encouragement?
If you’re in the latter camp, you have an ally in Raymond Tallis, a retired physician and clinical scientist in the United Kingdom who staunchly opposes biological determinism, or biologism. Biologism’s governing idea is that humans are “organisms rather than people,” acting only out of innate drives. Adherents hold that human experience “is identical with activity in the brain.” All of this is hogwash, Tallis says. It’s true that some experiences roughly correlate with activity in certain parts of the brain. But there’s no saying that this is the only mechanism at play in human experience. Memory, for instance, has no specific way of being represented by brain activity. And biologism cannot account for what philosophers call “intentionality”—an awareness unique to humans of the otherness of the world around them. Human consciousness is so rich and multifaceted that it’s “a much tougher nut to crack than the mystery of the Trinity,” Tallis argues.
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