[Advaita-l] Neuroscience - Perspective On Consciousness

Mahesh Ursekar mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com
Mon Jan 2 02:44:38 CST 2006


I read a brief interview of Dr VSR in the Indian Express and I get the
impresssion that his world view is that "it's all in the brain" i.e. he is
not well versed with Vedantic thought. Since I do not have his book, I am
not able to ascertain this completely. Can you help me?

Humble pranams, Mahesh

On 1/2/06, S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com> wrote:
> A common misconception among people who have a bit of a scientific
> background
> is that neuroscience can somehow explain Consciousness. Since science has
> explained so many things of the universe, it can also explain
> Consciousness -
> so goes the reasoning.
> Neuroscience has not only not explained Consciousness, it has centered on
> it as
> being amongst the most important unsolved problems in science.
> I've been reading the book "Phantoms in the Brain" by Prof.
> V.S.Ramachandran,
> one of the foremost neuroscientists of today, and he explains why
> Consciousness
> poses the greatest problem in the field.
> The problem here is the reconciliation of the First-Person vs.
> Third-Person
> viewpoints in perception. For example, this is one statement of the
> problem:
> When a person ("patient") is shown a red rose in front of him, he
> perceives it
> as a red rose. The redness of the rose is not perceived by the eye, as the
> eye
> can be perfectly fine yet the patient will not see the red rose if his
> optic
> nerve (the nerve from the eye to the brain) is cut. Therefore, the redness
> of
> the rose is perceived not by the eye, but by the brain (or so it is
> believed by
> neuroscientists). Somewhere in the brain, there arises the idea that a red
> rose
> is being perceived.
> The neuroscientist observes the brain of the patient and records his
> observations. But most unfortunately for the neuroscientist, no
> observation of
> the brain will reveal a red rose inside the brain.
> Third-Person (Neuroscientist's) Viewpoint: "There is a material entity
> (brain)
> with billions of grey neurons that are excited by electrical impulses, and
> affected by chemical substances such as drugs and proteins."
> First-Person (Patient's) Viewpoint: "I see a RED ROSE."
> The problem is - how and why is the sight of a RED ROSE appearing out of
> grey
> neurons constituting the brain? If a scientist peers into the brain, he
> will
> never observe how the perception of the red rose arises out of the grey
> neurons. So far as the neuroscientist is concerned, perception of the red
> rose
> is a phantom in the brain - i.e. it doesn't exist in the brain. But it is
> common sense that perception of the red rose does happen - if not in the
> brain,
> where else can it happen?
> It appears that the brain is not only an object ("Grey Matter"), but also
> a
> subject ("Seeing of Red"). But how exactly the brain can be an object as
> well
> as a subject of perception is far from being explained by science.
> Here is Prof. Ramachandran's exposition (Page 229):
> ---
> "The central mystery of the cosmos, as far as I'm concerned,
> is the following: Why are there always two parallel
> descriptions of the universe - the first-person account
> ("I see red") and the third-person account ("He says that
> he sees red when certain pathways in his brain encounter a
> wavelength of six hundred nonometers?")? How can these two
> accounts be so utterly different yet complementary? Why
> isn't there only a third-person account, for according to
> the objective worldview of the physicist and neuroscientist,
> that's the only one that really exists? (Scientists who hold
> this view are called behaviorists.) Indeed, in their scheme
> of "objective science," the need for a first-person
> account doesn't even arise - implying that consciousness
> simply doesn't exist. But we all know perfectly well that
> can't be right. I'm reminded of the old quip about the
> behaviorist who, just having made passionate love, looks
> at his lover and says, "Obviously that was good for you,
> dear, but was it good for me?" This need to reconcile the
> first-person and third-person accounts of the universe
> (the "I" view versus the "he" or "it" view) is the single
> most important unsolved problem in science. Dissolve this
> barrier, say the Indian mystics and sages, and you will
> see that the separation between self and nonself is an
> illusion - that you are really One with the cosmos."
> ---
> "It is the mind which creates the body, the brain in it and also
> ascertains
> that the brain is its seat."
> -"Talks" with Ramana Maharshi, 17th January, 1937.
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