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Back to Basics: The Magician’s Apprentice 50 Years On

By John Bradshaw

The prefix "neuro" these days appears before so many other existing disciplines – neuroethics, neurophilosophy, neuroeconomics and neuroforensics – but can all these disciplines be better comprehended and mastered through the lens of brain mechanisms?

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In Greek mythology, Narcissus, son of the river god Cephisus and the water nymph Leirope, was a beautiful youth, beloved by the nymph Echo whom he cruelly repulsed. For this offence, Aphrodite, goddess of love, punished him by making him pathologically enamoured of his own image as reflected in a pool of water. His continuing and fruitless attemptes to approach his beautiful self image led to his despair and death. Are we not all just a little tempted by a similar fascination, an urge to understand, see even, something of the workings of our own minds, maybe to be glimpsed through a study of that latest of scientific endeavours, passions one might almost say, Cognitive Neuroscience? It can be no accident that the prefix “neuro-“ nowadays appears before so many other existing disciplines – neuroethics, neurophilosophy, neuroeconomics, neuroforensics.....Can all these disciplines be better comprehended and mastered through the lens of brain mechanisms?

The human brain, that most exquisitely complex of all known systems, manages so much of what seems to render us human – possession of a mind, however defined with respect to a substrate such as the brain, consciousness, will, intention, attention, ethics, personal and legal responsibility, thought, emotion, cognition.....the list goes on and on. And in the last couple of decades so many wonderful new procedures and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.