IS THE MIND AN ‘EMERGENT’ PROPERTY OF MATTER ?
William James (1842 – 1910), the father of American Psychology observed that Consciousness is not a ‘thing’ but a ‘process’. In the last century the western study of neurobiology, its chemical processes and imaging techniques have undergone phenomenal advances carrying this ‘study of processes’ to cognitive sciences. The brain was studied using sophisticated EEG (Electro Encelograph) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines to map the visual cortex, language areas, auditory lobes, the relation of fear to amygdala and so on and so forth . But where exactly does the Consciousness reside in the cerebellum ? …. in the hippocampus or cerebrum – there are no easy answers !
So we come to what David J. Chalmers calls the ‘HARD PROBLEM’  …. “ The Hard Problem is the question of how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience. This puzzle involves the inner aspect of thought and perception : the way things feel for the subject. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought. All are part of what I call consciousness. It is these phenomena that pose the real mystery of the mind.”In a serious attempt to address this ‘Hard Problem’ His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been holding a series of Mind & Life talks with eminent western scientists every two years since October 1987 . The challenge has been to trace the advent of consciousness into the human mind from the progression of matter and its evolution. Some of the interesting features of these and other related writings are as follows:-
‘It is the closure of a primitive membrane into a “vesicle” that represents a discrete transition from non-life to life.’ (Harold Morowitz)