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Kunstadt, L.P. (1993). Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind; A Nobel Laureate's Revolutionary Vision of How the Mind Originates in the Brain: By Gerald M. Edelman. New York: Basic Books. 1992. Pp. 280.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:643-647.
(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:643-647
Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind; A Nobel Laureate's Revolutionary Vision of How the Mind Originates in the Brain: By Gerald M. Edelman. New York: Basic Books. 1992. Pp. 280.
Review by: Lawrence P. Kunstadt
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward mine hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation?
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
Incited by his wife to murder gentle King Duncan, inflamed by her affronts to his manhood and racked with guilt, Macbeth hallucinates the weapon of death. Therein lies a telling difference between psychoanalysis and neurobiology. For no matter how well we come to know the brain, can our knowledge ever account for the regicidal, and presumably parricidal, wish and its participation in intrapsychic conflicts?
In contrast to neurobiology, which is an inquiry into mechanism, psychoanalysis is at minimum a psychology of meaning, especially personal meaning. So the question is, while neurobiology cannot account for meaning, can the mind therefore be understood without recourse to biology? Edelman argues that meaning outside of Darwinian evolution and epigenetic development is incomplete. The brain being the organ of meaning, understanding mechanisms of brain functioning are necessary to understand the mind. This is not an obvious matter, even for people who try to understand the brain/mind problem.
In a fundamental, critical and extended attack, Edelman undermines current functionalist (that the brain operates on formal logical algorithms), objectivist (that the brain accurately and in a one-to-one correspondence, reflects relations and categories of extemal reality), and, particularly, 'brain-as-computer' theories—which, in a certain way, are all wayward sons of Le Mettrie's 1747 view of animals and people as mechanical machines.
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