Despite remarkable strides across virtually all scientific disciplines, the nature of the relationship between our brain and our conscious experience—the “mind-body problem”—remains perhaps the greatest mystery confronting science today. Most neuroscientists currently believe that neural activity in the brain constitutes the foundation of our reality, and that consciousness emerges from the dynamics of complicated neural networks. Yet no scientific theory to date has been able to explain how the properties of such neurons or neural networks actually translates into our specific conscious experiences.
The prevalent view in cognitive science today is that we construct our perception of reality in real time. But could we be misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences? According to some cognitive scientists, what we perceive with our brain and our senses does not reflect the true nature of reality. Thus, while evolution has shaped our perceptions to guide adaptive behavior, they argue, it has not enabled us to perceive reality as it actually is. What are the implications of such a radical finding for our understanding of the mystery of consciousness? And how do we distinguish between “normal” and “abnormal” perceptual experiences?
Cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan join Steve Paulson to discuss the elusive quest to understand the fundamental nature of consciousness, and why our perception of reality is not necessarily what it seems.
*Reception to follow
This event is part of the Conversations on the Nature of Reality series.
Moderated by journalist Steve Paulson, Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, this three-part series at the New York Academy of Sciences brings together leading scientists and thinkers to explore the fundamental nature of reality through the lens of personal experience and scientific inquiry.
To learn more about each lecture and to purchase tickets, click on the links below.