Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind

Overview

We are on the verge of a revolution in neuroscience as significant as the Galilean revolution in physics or the Darwinian revolution in biology. Nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman takes issue with the many current cognitive and behavioral approaches to the brain that leave biology out of the picture, and argues that the workings of the brain more closely resemble the living ecology of a jungle than they do the activities of a computer. Some startling conclusions emerge from these ideas: individuality is necessarily...

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Overview

We are on the verge of a revolution in neuroscience as significant as the Galilean revolution in physics or the Darwinian revolution in biology. Nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman takes issue with the many current cognitive and behavioral approaches to the brain that leave biology out of the picture, and argues that the workings of the brain more closely resemble the living ecology of a jungle than they do the activities of a computer. Some startling conclusions emerge from these ideas: individuality is necessarily at the very center of what it means to have a mind, no creature is born value-free, and no physical theory of the universe can claim to be a ”theory of everything” without including an account of how the brain gives rise to the mind. There is no greater scientific challenge than understanding the brain. Bright Air, Brilliant Fire is a book that provides a window on that understanding.

We are on the brink of understanding ancient mysteries: how we know, what governs our nature, what makes a person different from a thing. Now one of the world's foremost brain scientists gives us a glimpse of the revolution in neuroscience that has led to this understanding and examines the implications for philosophy, curing mental disease, and building conscious artifacts. Photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times Book Review
Edelman is one of those lucky researchers who may be on the verge of answering some of the most profound questions in science today.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this challenging, exhilarating leap by a disciplined and original mind, Nobel Prize-winner Edelman medicine, 1972 throws a neurobiological line between two ships--mind and matter--in the stormiest of scientific seas. In his defense of the biological component of mind, Edelman The Remembered Pres ent disposes of cognitive and behavioral theories of consciousness. To take up the slack, he extends current developments in brain neuroscience well into speculation. He is far too modest in stating that his goal is ``to dispel the notion that the mind can be understood in the absence of biology,'' for the book is a near-kinetic series of critiques and proposals to connect physics and psychology. The ``Harmonies'' section draws on other disciplines--philosophy, linguistics and psychiatry, among others--to entwine these tendrils of thought into a ``unified theory'' of mind. Illustrations not seen by PW . Natural Science Book Club selection. Apr .
Library Journal
Edelman, Nobel laureate and director of the Neurosciences Institute, is the author of three previous books on the biology of the brain. His latest book advances the theory that the mind has arisen through evolutionary morphology. According to Edelman, the mind is not a kind of computer but a product of the biological forms that have developed through natural selection. To support his theory, Edelman offers a mini-course in modern molecular biology and development. By the author's own admission, this is ``strenuous'' reading, complete with ``strange vocabulary.'' Nevertheless, Edelman presents his theory with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to discover the origins of the mind. Readers well-grounded in physics, biology, and philosophy will find his ideas extremely challenging. Primarily for academic libraries.-- Laurie Bartolini, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
Booknews
Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Edelman leads nonspecialists through the current state of knowledge about the brain, and presents a new and original way of looking at how the brain and the mind are connected. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465007646
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1270L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald M. Edelman is director of the Neurosciences Institute and chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at the Scripps Research Institute. He received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1972. He is also the author of Bright Air, Brilliant Fire; Tobiology; and The Remembered Present.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Pt. I Problems
1 Mind 3
2 Putting the Mind Back into Nature 9
3 The Matter of the Mind 16
Pt. II Origins
4 Putting Psychology on a Biological Basis 33
5 Morphology and Mind: Completing Darwin's Program 42
6 Topobiology: Lessons from the Embryo 52
7 The Problems Reconsidered 65
Pt. III Proposals
8 The Sciences of Recognition 73
9 Neural Darwinism 81
10 Memory and Concepts: Building a Bridge to Consciousness 99
11 Consciousness: The Remembered Present 111
12 Language and Higher-Order Consciousness 124
13 Attention and the Unconscious 137
14 Layers and Loops: A Summary 147
Pt. IV Harmonies
15 A Graveyard of Isms: Philosophy and Its Claims 157
16 Memory and the Individual Soul: Against Silly Reductionism 165
17 Higher Products: Thoughts, Judgments, Emotions 173
18 Diseases of the Mind: The Reintegrated Self 178
19 Is It Possible to Construct a Conscious Artifact? 188
20 Symmetry and Memory: On the Ultimate Origins of Mind 197
Epilogue 209
Mind Without Biology: A Critical Postscript 211
Selected Readings 253
Credits 267
Index 273
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