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Brakel, L.A. (2001). A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination: Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi. New York: Basic Books, 2000, 274 pages, $17.00. Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):245-248.

(2001). Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):245-248

A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination: Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi. New York: Basic Books, 2000, 274 pages, $17.00

Review by:
Linda A. W. Brakel, M.D.

Beginning with the title, A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination promises much. This is the sixth book by Edelman (the first was with another colleague, Mountcastle) in a series that grapples with aspects of the mind–body problem. And although Edelman and Tononi—despite the prodigious amount of important work impressively synthesized in this latest volume—have not directly resolved this dilemma, they have done no less here than provide us with an embodied theory of mind, one that is not just coherent, but compelling. Further, it is compelling in part because, given an important change in one of their conceptualizations (which I will outline below), it does have the potential to dissolve, if not exactly resolve, the mind–body conundrum as a problem involving incompatible categories.

This book is weighty and it could have been a difficult book, but Edelman and Tononi do much to make it accessible. Each of the book's six major sections begins with the authors introducing in clear language what aims they have had, what problems they have addressed, and what they believe constitutes their solutions. Then every chapter (there are 17) opens with a concise abstract and closes with a tight summary. And as an extra touch, bridging comments make the passage from one chapter to the next more fluid.

Edelman and Tononi's overall goals are presented in the preface. They wish to answer four questions:

1—How does consciousness arise as a result of particular neural processes and of the interactions among the brain, the body, and the world? 2—How do these neural processes account for key properties of conscious experience? Each conscious state is unified and indivisible, yet at the same time, each person can choose among an immense number of different conscious states.

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