cover of book

The Predictive Brain: Consciousness, Decision and Embodied Action
by Mauro Maldonato
Sussex Academic Press, 2022
Paper: 978-1-84519-639-4 | eISBN: 978-1-78284-136-4
Library of Congress Classification QP360.5.M34 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 612.8233

During the lengthy and complex process of human evolution our ancestors had to adapt to testing situations in which survival depended on making rapid choices that subjected muscles and body to extreme tension. In order to seize a prey travelling at 36 km per hour Homo sapiens had just thousandths of a second in which to prepare the appropriate gesture. While we are no longer faced with such an environment, our brain continues to use the adaptive mechanisms, enabling us to avoid danger and sense interlocutor intentions. This book sets out to show that our brain is not only a reactive mechanism, reacting to external stimuli, but is pro-active -- allowing us to make hypotheses, anticipate consequences, and formulate expectations: in short, to wrong foot an adversary. The body and its movements are at the origin of all abstract modes of behaviour, starting from language. The evolution of motor modes of behaviour (e.g the ability to construct and manipulate instruments) has given rise to an "embodied logic" underpinning not only action and prediction but also gestures and syllable sequences that are the basis of human communication. Some motor experiences have progressively moulded the nervous infrastructures and led to the development of symbols/metaphors used in language, coming to serve as classes of perceptions, behavioural patterns and universal linguistic conventions. Whether shaking some- one's hand or writing a letter, each executive function -- controlled by nervous structures and mental procedures that process the information -- requires behaviours that are oriented to a specific end. The executive functions imply planning/selecting an action; the process is linked to an embodied cognition supported by consciousness. If consciousness is caused by specific neuronal processes and, therefore, conscious states are causally reducible to neurobiological processes, it is also true that conscious states exist at a higher level than neuron activity. For this reason it is necessary to go beyond a hierarchical idea of levels of consciousness, and to refute the idea according to which the 'mental' sphere is qualitative, subjective, and in the 'first person', while the 'physical' sphere is quantitative, objective and in the 'third person'.

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