PHI. A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul. Giulio Tononi
A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul is a fascinating book for any reader interested in the so-called “mind-body problem”, i.e. the relation between matter — the neurological edifice which is the brain — and consciousness. Some of us have never thought about how matter generates thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, all the impalpable sensations philosophers call “qualia”. There is a gap between neuronal activity and feeling. Author Giulio Tononi creates a fictional Galileo who, in a kind of reverie, makes contact with scientists and philosophers of his time and of future times. His encounters include the “French Dreamer” (Descartes), “Frick”, (Francis Crick), “Alturi” (Alan Turing), and many others. These encounters take him step by step and not without contradictions to an ultimate understanding of the emergence of consciousness. Tononi’s definition of integrated information as the source of “qualia” is appealing, and the readers learn a great deal about the history of theory and about the structure of the brain. Voyage opens up all kinds of questions as to what it is to be human, with an autobiographical consciousness (to use Antonio Dalmasio’s terminology), and what it is to be merely animal with their own kind of “qualia”.
Together with stunning photographs of Renaissance paintings, sculpture and modern brain scans, Dr. Tononi’s poetically evocative language is a balm for both mind and, I daresay, soul.