"Until this provocative book, I thought that Gerald Edelman was merely one of our greatest and most original thinkers in neuroscience. But now having read such a remarkable disquisition on the relationship between brain physiology, consciousness and knowledge as he presents here, I have become certain of something about which I had previously only wondered: he is also one of our greatest philosophers."—Sherwin Nuland, Yale University; author of How We Die
"Edelman's Second Nature offers the mature synthesis of his reflections on brain and mind. Somehow, it is both intellectually satisfying and wise."—Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error and Looking for Spinoza
"A remarkable contribution to the philosophy of the mind, Edelman's Second Nature breaks new ground to an age-old problem by launching brain-based epistemology. Original, lucid, concise, succinct: easily the best in the field."—Apostolos P. Georgopoulos, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota
(Apostolos P. Georgopoulos)
“Dr. Edelman has done something unique in this book. He deals both with the important epistemological issues and the mechanisms in the brain that give rise to them.”—Avrum Stroll, University of California, San Diego
“In the tradition of John von Neumann’s The Computer and the Brain and Erwin Schrödinger’s What Is Life? Gerald Edelman summarizes his seminal contributions to our understanding of the human brain and the human mind. The reader is drawn into a conversation with a master, who is at once witty and wise.”—Howard Gardner, author of Changing Minds
"It was William James's dream that physiology, psychology and philosophy be joined into a single discipline, and in Second Nature, the latest volume in Gerald M. Edelman's seminal series of books on Neural Darwinism, this dream of a brain-based epistemology is brought closer than ever to realization. For anyone who is interested in human consciousness, this is required reading. "—Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
From the Author
A conversation with Dr. Gerald M. Edelman
Q: Is there a single message in Second Nature you want to convey?
A: We are about to understand how consciousness arises in the workings of the brain. I argue that while the scientific picture of the world describes the bases for all phenomena including consciousness, there remain arenas, such as ethics and aesthetics, which cannot be fully described by a scientific approach.
Q: What are the most significant advances in brain science that you address in this book?
A: We now understand that the brain is not organized like a computer. A better image is provided by considering it to be a biological system whose form and activity involve pattern recognition rather than logic. This implies that each person’s brain is unique in the history of the universe.
Q: Will we ever understand how consciousness arises as a result of brain action?
Yes, we will. We are on the brink of understanding how consciousness arises as a result of myriad mutual interactions of nerve cells distributed in our cerebral cortex. Integration of these interactions allows us to make enormous numbers of distinctions that are the hallmark of consciousness. Indeed, someday we may be able to make a conscious artifact.
A: Will knowledge and how we acquire it be reduced completely to a scientific description?
No. This is a major point of the book. For example, each brain has a developmental and evolutionary history that is largely irreversible and uniquely individual. Furthermore, creative thought, scientific and otherwise, starts with ambiguity, and only in some instances can it proceed to scientific clarity.