Monday, October 23, 2006

Ownership of Self in Consciousness

Like Locke, Antonio Damasio stresses quality of ownership, of self, of self-awareness in consciousness.
Damasio holds that the neurobiology of consciousness faces two fundamental general problems: ‘the problem of how the movie-in-the-brain is generated, and the problem of how the brain also generates the sense that there is an owner and observer for that movie.’ Extended consciousness, as he calls it, ‘provides the organism with an elaborate sense of self’. Analogously to Locke, Damasio believes that besides the ‘images of what we perceive externally’, there is also ‘this other presence that signifies you, as observer of the things imaged, potential actor on the things imaged. There is a presence of you in a particular relationship with some object. If there were no such presence, how would your thoughts belong to you?’ And like William James, he holds that the self is a feeling: ‘the simplest form of such a presence is also an image, actually the kind of image that constitutes a feeling. In that perspective, the presence of you is the feeling of what happens when your being is modified by the acts of apprehending something. The presence never quits, from the moment of awakening to the moment sleep begins. The presence must be there or there is no you.’

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