Out of My Head: On the trail of consciousness
Harvill Secker, $35 hb, 312 pp, 9781911215714
How does consciousness, the feeling of what happens, emerge from the object that Tim Parks describes in this engaging book as ‘a gruesome pinkish grey, vaguely intestinal lump’? Is mind identical with brain, is it secreted by it in some fashion, or does it, as some philosophers suggest, mysteriously ‘supervene’ on neural processes? Dualism is deeply unfashionable, and the rise of brain science has made materialism the new common sense, but how can the wisps of subjective experience be tethered to the electrochemical fizz inside our skulls? These questions define the mission of the many psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers who study consciousness, but the prospect of a mutually satisfying answer continues to recede into the future.