John Eccles
Understanding the Human Brain

Now before discussing brain function in detail I will at the beginning give an account of my philosophical position on the so-called brain-mind problem so that you will be able to relate the experimental evidence to this philosophical position. I have written at length on this philosophy in my book 'Facing Reality'. In Fig. 6-1 you will be able to see that I fully accept the recent philosophical achievments of Sir Karl Popper with his concept of three worlds. I was a dualist, now I am a trialist. Cartesian dualism has become unfashionable with many people. They embrace monism in order to escape the enigma of brain-mind interaction with its perplexing problems. But Sir Karl Popper and I are interactionists, and what is more, trialist interactionists! The three worlds are very easily defined. I believe that in the classification of Fig. 6-1 there is nothing left out. It takes care of everything that is in existence and in our experience. All can be classified in one or other of the categories enumerated under Worlds 1, 2. and 3.

Fig. 6-1

1. Inorganic: Matter and Energy of Cosmos
Subjective Knowledge
Records of Intellectual Efforts
2. Biology: Structure and Actions of All Living Beings; Human Brains
Experience of: Perception, Thinking, Emotions, Dispositional Intentions, Memories, Dreams, Creative Imagination
Philosophical, Theological, Scientific, Historical, Literary, Artistic, Technological
3. Artifacts: Material Substrates of human creativitiy, of tools, of machines, of books, of works of art, of music.
Theoretical Systems: Scientific Problems, Critical Arguments

In Fig. 6-1, World 1 is the world of physical objects and states. It comprises the whole cosmos of matter and energy, all of biology including human brains, and all artifacts that man has made for coding information, as for example, the paper and ink of books or the material base of works of art. World 1 is the total world of the materialists. They recognize nothing else. All else is fantasy.

World 2 is the world of states of consciousness and subjective knowledge of all kinds. The totality of our perceptions comes in this world. But there are several levels. In agreement with Polten, I tend to recognize three kinds of levels of World 2, as indicated in Fig. 6-2, but it may be more correct to think of it as a spectrum.

Fig. 6-2

Outer Sense Inner Sense Pure Ego
Light, Colour, Sound, Smell, Taste, Pain, Touch Thoughts, Feelings, Memories, Dreams, Imaginings, Intentions The Self - The Soul

The first level (outer sense) would be the ordinary perceptions provided by all our sense organs, hearing and touch and sight and smell and pain. All of these perceptions are in World 2, of course: vision with light and colour; sound with music and harmony; touch with all its qualities and vibration; the range of odours and tastes, and so on. These qualities do not exist in World 1, where correspondingly there are but electromagnetic waves, pressure waves in the atmosphere, material objects, and chemical substances.

In addition there is a level of <em>inner sense</em>, which is the world of more subtle perceptions. It is the world of your emotions, of your feelings of joy and sadness and fear and anger and so on. It includes all your memory, and all your imaginings and planning into the future. In fact there is a whole range of levels which could be described at length. All the subtle experiences of the human person are in this inner sensory world. It is all private to you but you can reveal it in linguistic expression, and by gestures of all levels of subtlety.

Finall, at the core of World 2 there is the <em>self</em> or <em>pure ego</em>, which is the basis of our unity as an experiencing being throughout our whole lifetime.

This World 2 is our primary reality. Our conscious experiences are the basis of our knowledge of World 1, which is thus a world of secondary reality, a derivative world. Whenever I am doing a scientific experiment, for example, I have to plan it cognitively, all in my thoughts, and then consciously carry out my plan of action in the experiment. Finally I have to look at the results and evaluate them in thought. For example, I have to see the traces of the oscilloscope and their photographic records or hear the signals on the loudspeaker. The various signals from the recording equipment have to be recieved by my sense organs, transmitted to my brain, and so to my consciousness, then appropriately measured and compared before I can begin to think about the significance of the experimental results. We are all the time, in every action we do, incessantly playing backwards and forwards between World 1 and World 2.

And what is World 3? As shown in Fig. 6-1 it is the whole world of culture. It is the world that was created by man and that reciprocally made man. This is my message in which I follow Popper unreservedly. The whole of language is here. All our means of communication, all our intellectual efforts coded in books, coded in the artistic and technological treasures in the museums, coded in every artifact left by man from primitive times--this is World 3 right up to the present time. It is the world of civilization and culture. Education is the means whereby each human being is brought into relation with World 3. In this manner he becomes immersed in it throughout life, participating in the heritage of mankind and so becomming fully human. World 3 is the world that uniquely relates to man. It is the world which is completely unknown to animals. They are blind to all of World 3. I say that without any reservations. This is then the first part of my story.

Now I come to consider the way in which the three worlds interact...



John Eccles, Chapter 6 'Brain, Speech, and Consciousness', p. 189, The Understanding of the Brain, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973. ISBN: 0-07-018863-7)

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posted: May 2, 2009