Noe's re-conceptualization of personality in "Wide Minds"

Prompt 1. Noe's re-conceptualization of personality in "Wide Minds" has far-reaching ethical implications beyond those mentioned in the text. What is one example of this?

What Causes Brains to Be Conscious? Alva Noe, a neuroscientist, cognitive scientist, and philosopher, has dramatically altered the study of consciousness by pointing out evident faults and challenging conventional science (No, 2010). In his piece, out of our heads, Alva Noe not only re-examines the problem of consciousness and proposes a surprising solution, but he also restates it.Today, our culture is obsessed with the brain; how it determines, remembers, and perceives our dislikes and likes, morality, and intelligence (Kurki, Sparham, & Pietrzykowski, 2017). According to Koch & Sparham (2014), it has been widely believed, with the Holy Grail of philosophy and science, that conscious itself will in the near time be given a neural explanation. However, this has not happened even after decades of research. With that said, the only proportion concerning how the brains manage to make us conscious remains unchallenged. Putting it blatantly, we do not have a clue about this supposition. Nonetheless, the re-conceptualization of personhood that Noe undertakes in “Wide Minds” has drastic ethical ramifications beyond those given in the text. One example of this is how Alva Noe dismisses the 200 years old paradigm which places the consciousness within the confines of the brain.

In his inventive work, ‘out of our heads’ Alva Noe debunks an outmoded philosophy which holds captive the scientific study of consciousness by suggesting that consciousness is something that we do rather than something that happens inside us. If “The piece of literal work makes a fresh attempt to provide an understanding of how the human mind works and how people interact with the world around them. Alva Noe also makes a persuasive and powerful case for the view that it is misleading for science to have pictured the mind as an entity inside the head for several centuries. In spite of his views tending to be controversial, a majority of what Alva Noe says has grounds besides being original and therefore making it an important aspect to think about.

Secondly, the implications of Alva Noe’s approach as the regards what makes the brain conscious reach beyond just research on consciousness. A case in point is Alva Noe’s claim being equally iconoclastic when it comes to the theories of personhood. The status quo of the personhood’s theories has it that personhood is an inherent feature which is borne by a majority of the people and perhaps some of the non-humans (Torchia, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). However, Noe contends that the query of consciousness, in other words, the human beings being conscious, ought to be viewed as a question of life. In his own words, he states that “life is the lower boundary of consciousness” (Noë, 2010). But then again, to make this happen, there is no way we can regard conscious beings merely as or rather just as the physicochemical mechanisms or locus processes (Wassermann, DeCharms & Muñoz, 2009). Reasonably, in our efforts to study the human beings’ mind, "we need to keep the whole organism in its natural environmental settings in focus" (Noë, 2010). In spite of Alva Noe making his argument explicit, we cannot disregard the gravity of which his opinion has a solid anti-reductionist character. Alva Noe’s attempts, at justifications which are reductionist, aim to shrink consciousness to the aforementioned physiochemical mechanisms and processes and this sense of direction is destined to consent a remainder which it is unable to explain sufficiently. In a sense, given how other philosophers have, for a similar view regarding persons, argued, Alva Noe’s lacks ethics in terms of recognition.

Another aspect is how Alva Noe fails to tackle the real question that he objects. That is, instead of tackling or rather coming up with the, answer head on, to the question, "how does consciousness arise in the brain", Alva Noe only makes a move to offer pieces of evidence that it fails to. Through an example of the “brain in the vat” Alva Noe argues that a brain cannot yield consciousness for the reasons that it needs, the environment and nourishment, for its connections with the body. In the “brain in the vat,” Alva Noe claims that the picture is susceptible to lain, in and of itself (Noë, 2010). Having filled out these details, we find the brain in the vat supposition to be some sought of fantastical when compared to the alternative given by Noe which has it that, instead of producing consciousness in isolation, the brain "facilitating a dynamic pattern of interaction among brain, body, and world" (Noë, 2010). Alva Noe also provides a detailed account or rather evidence of how, by use of tools such as language, we extend our minds beyond the body and the brain (Noë, 2010). He also brings in the aspect of habits and how they are a crucial element in shaping the manner in which we respond to our environment.

Furthermore, Alva Noe also looks challenges the purported empirical evidence due to its claim or stance that the perceptual consciousness of the human beings is illusory. He does this by summarizing some of the vision research’s key findings which to some suggests that the human brain does fill in the gaps of the content that we are given by vision. This research was trying to prove that the eye fails to show uniformity in its resolving power, that is how images in the retina are unstable and so on (Wassermann, DeCharms, & Muñoz, 2009). According to the research, the brain is tied to compensating these inadequacies, and the brain does this by crafting a stable, uniform, and detailed picture of the biosphere (Koch & Sparham, 2014). By making arguments against the conjecture on which this conclusion rests, Alva Noe challenges these findings supporting his arguments with cases like such as the sleight-of-hand tricks. Alva Noe consigns to the argument that the perceptual consciousness is deceptive to debauched science for the reasons that it rests upon untenable and unsound philosophical assumptions (Noë, 2015).

Lastly, Alva Noe takes into consideration a dearth of acknowledgements to the authors of the works that he is challenging in this context. In this perspective, the arguments of Alva Noe may strike the reader as disappointing. Nevertheless, these shortcomings, are remedies by a few notes that Alva Noe provides at the end of the book which comprises of a wealth of discussions and references to the examples that he has discussed in the book. To fail to refer to the authors with whom you object on issues that lay the foundation of your argument raises a lot of questions with regard to ethics. On the whole, whatever Alva Noe is aiming at accomplishing is no small feat. Some of the philosophical suppositions which have been guiding the scientific research are to some extent suspect.

To sum up, the re-conceptualization of personhood that Noe undertakes in “Wide Minds” has drastic ethical ramifications beyond those given in the text. This is evidenced in the manner in which Alva Noe dismisses the 200 years old paradigm which places the consciousness within the confines of the brain. First, Alva Noe throws light on the outmoded philosophy by showing that consciousness happens inside us. Secondly, we see how iconoclastic Alva Noe in his claims concerning the theories of personhood and thereby bringing out the implications which are beyond just research on consciousness. Thirdly, Alva Noe does not actually give a solution to the question of consciousness that he objects but rather he does show how the supposition is wrong. He also objects the perception that perceptual consciousness is illusory. Lastly, Alva Noe’s does not adequately refer to the authors of the works that he is challenging.


Koch, C. & Sparham, G, (2014). PHILOSOPHY AND BRAIN SCIENCE: Thinking about the Conscious Mind. Science, 306(5698), 979-980. doi:10.1126/science.1102777

Noë, A. (2010). Out of our heads: Why you are not your brain, and other lessons from the biology of consciousness. New York: Hill & Wang.

Noë, A. (2015, August 3). Alva Noë - What Makes Brains Conscious? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Torchia, J., & Rowman and Littlefield. (2008). Exploring personhood: An introduction to the philosophy of human nature. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

In Kurki, V. A. J., Sparham, G., & In Pietrzykowski, T. (2017). Legal personhood: Animals, artificial intelligence and the unborn.

Wassermann, G. D., DeCharms, R. C., & Muñoz, J. (2009). Brains and reasoning: Brain science as a basis of applied and pure philosophy. London: Macmillan.

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