VSL:SCIENCE // This month’s brainiest science book

For centuries now, scientists have known just where to find the source of human consciousness: It resides in the three pounds of gelatinous flesh we call the brain.

But a new book by UC-Berkeley philosopher Alva Noë argues that the scientific models are wrong. Out of Our Heads asks us to compare consciousness to currency: It would be silly, Noë says, to look for “monetary value” in a physical object. Money’s value is embedded in the institutions and practices that surround it. By the same token, our awareness of the world doesn’t take place in our minds; it’s a function of the way we interact with everything around us. According to Noë, a thorough understanding of neurons will never amount to a thorough understanding of consciousness. We are much more than brains in bodies.

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