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March 13, 1967

Brain and Conscious Experience

Author Affiliations

Cambridge, Mass

JAMA. 1967;199(11):863. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120110135040

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When the Pope excluded philosophers from his conference on problems relating brain to conscious experience, he opened the way for fumbling with the word "conscious." It has three distinct meanings appearing in the papers and discussions: (1) agreement of witnesses, used by physicians in forensic medicine; (2) ideas of ideas, perhaps started by Abelard and fostered by Spinoza, a meaning common to all concerned with conceptual learning and so, with the hierarchy of languages, of command and control; (3) presentational immediacy or awareness of anything real or imaginary.

Nevertheless the conferences, with the notable exception of an excellent paper on biochemistry, stick to their knitting, so that their transactions constitute one book. Penfield, humble and humane, records patients' reports of stimulation of brain to guide surgery, and Jasper analyzes nervous activity— both relating experiences to centrencephalic activity. Schaefer analyzes the sequelae of psychoanalysis through social change, and Teuber comprehensively studies