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Imagination and the Meaningful Brain
The ultimate goal of the cognitive sciences is to understand how the brain works—how it turns "matter into imagination." In Imagination and the Meaningful Brain, psychoanalyst Arnold Modell claims that subjective human experience must be included in any scientific explanation of how the mind/brain works. Contrary to current attempts to describe mental functioning as a form of computation, his view is that the construction of meaning is not the same as information processing. The intrapsychic complexities of human psychology, as observed through introspection and empathic knowledge of other minds, must be added to the third-person perspective of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
Assuming that other mammals are conscious and conscious of their feelings, Modell emphasizes evolutionary continuities and discontinuities of emotion. The limbic system, the emotional brain, is of ancient origin, but only humans have the capacity for generative imagination. By means of metaphor, we are able to interpret, displace, and transform our feelings. To bolster his argument, Modell draws on a variety of disciplines—including psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, neurobiology, evolutionary biology, linguistics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. Only by integrating the objectivity of neuroscience, the phenomenology of introspection, and the intersubjective knowledge of psychoanalysis, he claims, will we be able fully to understand how the mind works.
About the Author
Arnold H. Modell is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
“A profound rumination on the perennial problem of how to understand other minds.”—Jung-In Kwon, Journal of Consciousness Studies
“Intellectual commerce at the mind-brain interface has been blossoming for a decade. Arnold Modell's important contribution to consciousness studies forges together modern and classical views of mental organization with the results of neuroscience. In it the three inseparable aspects of mental states—phenomenological, functional, and physiological—are blended together seamlessly. His positions invite us to consider a patchwork of intriguing evidence emerging from modern neuroscience in a psychologically coherent manner, and they force us to think hard about how emotional values, meaning, and imagination arise from neural dynamics.”
—Jaak Panksepp, Distinguished Research Professor, Emeritus, Bowling Green State University
“Modell argues convincingly that subjective experience provides an invaluable window onto the workings of the human brain. He also demonstrates the unexpected usefulness of psychoanalytical theories and methods in tackling some knotted problems of contemporary neuroscience.”
—Mark Solms, University College, London
“The explanatory divide that separates psychiatry and neurology, to the extreme detriment of both, can only be bridged by theory, and the Freudian bridge is in disarray. Modell has created new theory, rooted in his lucid and accessible summaries and syntheses of recent works in psychoanalysis, neuropsychology, linguistics, and brain dynamics. His work will be equally valuable for clinicians, scientists, and lay readers.”
—Walter J. Freeman, Division of Neurobiology, University of California, Berkeley