At the November 7, 2011 meeting of the Neurosciences and the Humanities Workgroup at Kent State University, we discussed the following articles:
Pallanti, Stefano. “Unique Contributions of Brain Stimulation to the Study of Consciousness: Where Neuroscience Meets Philosophy.” CNS Spectr 15:3 (March 2010): 154-156.
Lagercrantz, Hugo and Jean-Pierre Changeux. “Basic Consciousness of the Newborn.” Seminars in Perinatology: 201-206.
Velmans, Max. “How to Separate Conceptual Issues from Empirical Ones in the Study of Consciousness.” Progress in Brain Research. eds. R. Banerjee and B.K. Chakrabarti. 168: 1-9.
issues of definition
will we ever understand consciousness?
if we ever do–what then?
what is the significance of understanding consciousness to us in the humanities?
what can the work in this field do for us in the humanities?
should we seek out a “consensus” of consciousness?
Chalmers and Velmans > taxonomy of consciousness > take consciousness as a given and do not try to reduce it
are neuroaesthetics discourses the same as the consciousness debate? no–doesn’t seem to be a link between neuroaesthetics and consciousness–in neuroaesthetics discourse, we can take consciousness as a given
what about beauty and consciousness?
how do you communicate conscious experience to another person?
problems of relevance, historically/culturally
being too vague?
cognitive science/cognitive neuroscience/social neuroscience
work on imitation
literature > mimesis, mirror neurons
intersubjectivity > Marco Iacoboni
Brian Boyd > fascination with stories > evolved for social interaction
Metzinger book (from last time) > connection to lit studies
how would you teach these materials?
neuronovel > undergraduates
theory class > graduate, not integrative
I had students read Oliver Sacks in my writing class before moving to Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances
racial bias – can correct for that if primed in appropriate ways
emotion regulation, affect during reading
In the Woods – Jana French – unreliable narrator
degree to which the sense of self is a story
what is the narrative basis in the neurobiology?
“Basic Consciousness of the Newborn” > poorly written> confirms abortion rights [cultural specificity] > newborns are fully human beings > experiments framed because the scientists had a particular idea
assumptions by the neuroscientists might form the basis of their experiments and interpretation of findings
analogical > baby response – adult, baby brain – adult brain > same experiences
argument is as strong or weak as the analogy is
they used Websters for their definition
interesting to read what counts for science
is this article typical of neuroscience articles?
consciousness is something that has been around longer than neuroscience > explains why they cited the Webster’s definition
now, we should be careful when using the word “consciousness”
literature and philosophy have definitions and concepts that are specifically on consciousness
these migrated to the neurosciences
not situated in a discernable discourse
Velmans > 1st person (phenomenology) vs 3rd person (empirical)
what do we gain/how do we benefit from Woolf’s conceptions of consciousness: 1) how the world > social construction of the subject and 2) individual consciousness > individual articulation “the tunnel back to where all consciousnesses meet” (from last time) > conversation about humaness > important issues > can neuroscience help us understand these things better?
habitual states of consciousness
generalizing beyond Woolf’s individual genius (if you choose to use that word) > these things exist > would not attribute this to her individual genius > would not use the word genius > novel > system > rules and protocols that can be broken > genre advanced, almost exhausted > Woolf arives at a late stage > reflecting on these rules > totally rejects the idea of genius (but she was a very smart woman)
haiku, zen practices, consciousness, intepretation, e.g., a flag is waving in the wind, but what is moving? different responses
discussing future readings for the group
rhetoric of science writing > RSQ
science writing vs science teaching
shift to active voice from passive voice
interdisciplinarity > humanities > philosophy, theory of mind > English > psychoanalytic theory, practicing clinicians writing in response to the neurosciences
we arrived at consciousness studies through a discussion of the self
Antonio Damasio’s Decartes’ Error and Ruth Leys’ important book on trauma and affect theory, article on critical inquiry
questions being asked in the neurosciences are cultural questions
what have they found that would be useful to us? what can we take from their work?
humanities influence on cognitive science
working definition > acknowledge other definitions
issues of crisis in the humanities > the written word
how do we define the human > biopolitics
why do certain things become important or capture our imaginations or direct discourse at particular times
Aristotle > anger > boiling of the blood around the heart > tool for stirring up the crowd > affects > anger | virtue and danger
you work in the concept in the way that it works in a particular field
one word, many concepts, many questions related to those many concepts
language > concepts > where is the concept?
now, there are some questions that cannot be answered only in the given discipline
the concept of disciplines itself was wrongheaded from the beginning
next time: neurorhetorics