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In preparation for Andrew’s birth, I am re-reading the wonderful overview book by Alwyn Scott, Stairway to the Mind. He does not present a particular new or definitive theory (or, more appropriately an hypothesis) on the nature of consciousness, but gives a fabulous overview of current ideas and philosophies (up to “modern day” as of 1995).
This book is strongly recommended by Neuron News for anyone interested in obtaining a nice feel for the broad and wild fields covering the study of consciousness, and we are currently featuring it in our recommended books list. Sadly, Prof. Scott passed away last year at the age of 75 after dealing with lung cancer.
What is consciousness? What is the nature of the mind? A few initial, interesting, yet informal overviews may be found on Wikipedia under Consciousness, Self-awarness, and evenPhilosophy of Mind. But, the issue of consciousness from a scientific perspective is still so vague and so complicated… it is almost like we do not yet have the mathematical language to describe the seemingly miraculous phenomenon that we feel emanating from our heads.
As a vague beginning on outlining an approach to understanding the human mind, Prof. Scott emphasizes that consciousness is potentially the result of a hierarchy of a broad range of physical phenomena all interacting with one another in complex ways. So, borrowing his outline from the book, we present an interesting–although mostly intuitive–structure for considering the path through which consciousness might emerge during human existence:
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