In this unique exploration of the mysteries of the human brain, Roger Bartra shows that consciousness is a phenomenon that occurs not only in the mind but also in an external network, a symbolic system. He argues that the symbolic systems created by humans in art, language, in cooking or in dress, are the key to understanding human consciousness. Placing culture at the centre of his analysis, Bartra brings together findings from anthropology and cognitive science and offers an original vision of the continuity between the brain and its symbolic environment. The book is essential reading for neurologists, cognitive scientists and anthropologists alike.
Roger Bartra is Professor Emeritus at the University of Mexico (UNAM) and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London.
Part I. Consciousness and Symbolic Systems: 1. The hypothesis; 2. Evolution of the brain; 3. Brain plasticity; 4. Is there an internal language?; 5. Amputations and supputations; 6. The atrophied exocerebrum; 7. The symbolic substitution system; 8. Neuronal mirrors; 9. Consciousness within hand's reach; 10. Outside and inside: the immense blue; 11. The musical spheres of consciousness; 12. Artificial memory; 13. The lost soul; Part II. Brain and Free Will: 14. The hands of Orlac; 15. Does free will exist?; 16. An experiment with freedom; 17. The moral brain; 18. Unchained reasons; 19. Freedom in play; 20. External symbols; 21. Final reflections.