Anthropology of the Brain: Consciousness, Culture, and Free Will

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. Anthropologist by training, and today a leading public intellectual and social theorist in Latin America, Roger Bartra here dextrously argues that the plasticity of cultural and social networks facilitate a ‘prosthetic’ connection to the brain and consciousness. A daring and brilliant hypothesis, and yet another intellectual debt we owe to one of the premier thinkers of our time. … this ground-breaking anthropological study reveals the brain as an external – social – organ. … a thorough and provocative analysis of the nature of consciousness and free will from the perspective of an anthropologist with a deep knowledge of neuroscience, sociology and philosophy. The author challenges reductionist views on these perennial themes, while highlighting the importance of cultural and social networks in the definition and in the genesis of consciousness. No doubt this book will stir up a much needed debate, particularly within the neuroscience community; neurobiologists in general consider consciousness exclusively as a phenomenon that takes place inside the brain of the subject, producing awareness of the self, but largely ignoring ‘culture’ and ‘the other’.’

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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