Stairway to the Mind: The Controversial New Science of Consciousness / Edition 1

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Overview

The nature of human consciousness is a mystery that philosophers, artists, and scientists have struggled with for centuries. What is the basis for our awareness of ourselves and the universe around us? Some believe consciousness to be a purely physical phenomenon; others think it transcends the material world. In Stairway to the Mind, Alwyn Scott offers a new perspective-based exclusively on evidence from the natural sciences-in which materialism and dualism co-exist.
The author, a distinguished pioneer of nonlinear dynamics, bases his argument on a hierarchical view of mental organization in which atoms give rise to molecules, neurons form the brain, and individual consciousness leads to shared culture. It is an organization Scott symbolizes with a stairway-all steps are needed to complete the structure, and each level emerges from the previous one. Stairway to the Mind also features Scott's evenhanded yet penetrating evaluation of the many conflicting concepts of brain and mind. Few topics have been the subject of such divergent theories, and readers will appreciate Scott's insight as he compares the work of writers as diverse as William James and Francis Crick.
The book cuts across intellectual boundaries, incorporating particle physics, chemistry, cell biology, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and mathematics. For readers with specific knowledge in those areas, the book shows what each field adds to an overall investigation of consciousness. For general readers, it is an introduction to bold new scientific methods of probing the mind.

Alwyn Scott is a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Arizona and in the Institute of MathematicalModeling at the Technical University of Denmark. He is the founding editor of Physica D-Nonlinear Phenomena, and the founding director of the Center for Nonlinear Studies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387943817
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 7/21/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed. 1995. Corr. 2nd printing 1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 229
  • Product dimensions: 0.63 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface.- Acknowledgments.- List of Figures.- List of Tables.- Introduction.- Quantum Physics, Chemistry, and Consciousness: Quantum physics.- Chemistry.- Quantum consciousness.- References.- The Chemistry of Life: Biomolecular structures.- Blomolecular dynamics.- Is life based on the laws of physics?- References.- The Nerve Afire: Nerve membrane dynamics.- Nonlinear diffusion.- The Hodgkin-Huxley equations.- Neurodynamics.- References.- Is There a Computer In Your Head?: The McCulloch-Pitts neuron.- Dendritic and axonal computing.- Synaptic transmission.- The multiplex neuron.- A real neuron.- Quantum effects?- Can a neuron be modeled on a computer?- References.- "An Enchanted Loom": A brief look at the brain.- Layered structures.- The Perceptron.- The cell assembly.- The hierarchy of cell assemblies.- The cell assembly revisited.- The nature of thought.- Cortical Stimulation.- A deeper question.- References.- A Century of Brain-Mind Theory: William James.- George Santayana.- Behaviorism.- Donald Hebb.- Erwin Schrödinger.- Can a machine think?- Are we machines?- Forebrain commissurotomy.- Karl Popper and John Eccles.- Blindsight.- Roger Penrose.- Francis Crick and Christof Koch.- Daniel Dennett.- John Searle.- Erich Harth.- Henry Stapp.- Eccles throws down the gauntlet.- Crick replies.- The hard problem.- References.- "A Great Arc" of Possibilities: The birth of American anthropology.- Cultural configurations.- Coming of age in Samoa.- Cultural relativity.- Anthropology and modern life.- Ethics.- Biological and cultural evolution.- References.- Toward an Emergent Theory of Consciousness: Credo.- Quantum consciousness and scientific determinism.- Conservation of energy in the mind?- Materialism.- Functionalism.- Dualism.- The locus of consciousness.- Artificial intelligence.- Two dreams.- References.- "Then I Tell Them What I Told Them": Recapitulation.- Final comments.- Appendices: Nonlinearity and Emergence.- The Mathematics of Quantum Theory.- The Born-Oppenheimer Approximation.- Local Modes.- Schrödinger's Cat.- Linear and Nonlinear Diffusion.- The Hodgkin-Huxley Equations.- Counting Neural Networks.- An Incomplete Physical Theory.- References.- Index.

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