Saturday 14 February 2009

Certainly Uncertain

"Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it."
- Stuart Sutherland (British psychologist)
#1. More than fifty years ago a middle−aged woman walked into the clinic of Kurt Goldstein, a world−renowned neurologist with keen diagnostic skills. The woman appeared normal and conversed fluently; indeed, nothing was obviously wrong with her. But she had one extraordinary complaint — every now and then her left hand would fly up to her throat and try to strangle her. She often had to use her right hand to wrestle the left hand under control, pushing it down to her side — much like Peter Sellers portraying Dr. Strangelove. She sometimes even had to sit on the murderous hand, so intent was it on trying to end her life.

#2. Not long ago, at the Rivermead Rehabilitation Center in Oxford, England, I gripped a woman's lifeless left hand and, raising it, held it in front of her eyes. "Whose arm is this?" She looked me in the eye and huffed, "What's that arm doing in my bed?" "Well, whose arm is it?" "That's my brother's arm," she said flatly. But her brother was nowhere in the hospital. He lives somewhere in Texas.
(from Phantoms in the Brain, VS Ramachandran)

The above two cases are only a handful of clinical examples which have repeatedly questioned the nature of what we call as Self or Consciousness. A few cases have even ended up as interesting lawsuits that fell deep into moral, spiritual & psychological grounds.

During my college life at BITS Pilani, I've had a good share of conversations that revolved around selfishness, altruism, social definitions of good-bad & so on. And at all those times, it was very evident that most issues related to human values, behavior & evolution, inevitably lead us into uncertain grounds. The reason for uncertainty being - the lack of objective understanding of everything that is remotely human. But I've always believed it is possible, to understand ourselves in a much deeper & scientific way than we presently do.

This blog will be my attempt to put together everything that comes close to answering the mysteries surrounding our understanding of Self, Consciousness & Human Behavior. I'm not sure how well individual posts I write here connect later on, but here I am.... pondering on things that are certainly uncertain.

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