Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 0 comments

The Persistent Mystery of Our Selves

By : John Rennie

Master detective Hercule Poirot, the hero of many an Agatha Christie novel, boasted repeatedly about the power of “the little gray cells” in his head to solve the toughest mysteries. For philosophers, writers and other
thinkers, however, those little gray cells have been the greatest mystery of all. How do a couple of pounds of spongy, electrically active tissue give rise to a psychological essence?

How do we emerge from the neural thicket? Empirical scientists may be relative newcomers to this investigation (unlike the philosophers, they’ve been on the case for only a few hundred years), but they have
taken long strides forward in that short time. In this special issue of Scientific American, some of the lead-in neuroscience and in psychology discuss how much is now known about the nature of consciousness, memory, emotions, creativity, dreams and other mental phenomena. Their answers suggest that some of these mysteries may be largely solved within our lifetimes—even if new ones are posed in the process.
But treat these articles as you would any good detective story: don’t turn right to the end for the answers. Half the fun is in tracing the deductions.

To be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious of our own existence. 

Memory is the cabinet of imagination, the treasury of reason, the registry of conscience, and the council chamber of thought. 
—St. Basil

The whole machinery of our intelligence, our general ideas and laws, fixed and external objects, principles, persons, and gods, are so many symbolic, algebraic expressions. 
—George Santayana

I have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
—Mark Twain


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