Pinker vs. Damasio

This incomplete article is part of an ongoing approach of comparing Steven Pinker's perspective of consciousness with Antonio Demasio's.

2 months ago

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Pinker vs. Damasio

“Hath not a Jew--or an Arab, or an African, or a baby, or a dog--a cerebral cortex and a thalamus? The undeniable fact that we are all made of the same neural flesh makes it impossible to deny our common capacity to suffer.” - Steven Pinker

As a purview of what consciousness is, Steven Pinker re-enacts the wisdom of one Shylock and Venice Merchant[1]; the wisdom that biologically we are self-replicating [2], empathetic if you will, of biological inventory, be it human or our k-9 brethren. Coupled with an environmentally adaptive pain-pleasure biology, is this not a partially deterministic material ontology? I will not beg the question here, this would only insult the reader's intelligence, besides a framework is all I am insinuating. Distancing from philosophy jargon, the bifurcation between the two views ends atop the shoulder within the bobbling cranium inherited by the Cro-Magnon phylogenalia. On top of, beneath, or indifferent to the reality of our phylogenetic chain, the mountainous terrain is firmly planted in the heliotropic self-imagined self; allusions towards illusions as I like to describe the stories we should enact, a duality only in its seemingly infinitesimal feedback loops. Reactive and responsive is the common starting point between Pinker and Antonio Damasio's version of consciousness. Damasio's emotive substrate and felt experience model is additive to the equation. Problematic degrees of difficulty aside,[3] both views (Pinker & Damasio) utilize neurology in the phenomenological experience otherwise known as consciousness. Creature comforts persist as Damasio extends the epistemology of consciousness by emphasizing the neurochemical and spinal cord as instrumental and integral to the bidirectional information exchange that cascades a Jamesian-ish performance of what it's like to be one's self. Pinker's physiology is sparse and neither necessary or sufficient for his explanation of How the Mind Works (1997). His epistemology is more of a discrete anthology of studies and research pulled from the lineage[4] of the Enlightenment and traditions of the West. This Pinker does exceedingly well, especially for the lay reader.

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  1. in a 2007 article for Time magazine;,9171,1580394-2,00.html, "Shylock", and "Venice Merchant", are literary references to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, with Shylock as the antagonist in the play. ↩︎

  2. the reference here is to the illusory nature of the self, which Damasio and Pinker share and not to one homunculus coordinated locale or the slippery slope of fractal fissures. ↩︎

  3. footnote on the reference to David Chalmers' binary framing of the problématique; ie. the hard problem versus the easy problem of consciousness. ↩︎

  4. A node to Bret Weinstein's lineage hypothesis for cultural evolution. ↩︎

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Daniel Sanderson

Published 2 months ago