This is a short inexpensive book from an author that I enjoyed before when I read his “Phantoms in the Brain”.
The Tour is a synopsis of perhaps the best of Phantoms; I didn’t see too much new until I got about halfway thru.
I keep reading Ramachandran because his sense of explanation is sort of congruent to that of a computer scientist.
This is definitely not so of Freud or most other psychologists.
Ramachandran proposes and reports on many tests of some of his strange ideas.
It is significant that his ideas make testable and surprising predictions.
Ramachandran proposes a more concrete mechanism to explain blindsight than in Phantoms.
He addresses qualia in an interesting manner; I quote (page 108):
In chapter 2 I mentioned the “blindsight” syndrome, in which a patient with visual cortex damage is able to use an alternative spared brain pathway to guide his hand unerringly to reach out and touch the spot.
I would argue that this patient has a representation of the light spot in his spared pathway, but without his visual cortex he has no representation of the representation—and hence no qualia “to speak of”.
Such curious uncoupling of dissociations between sensation and conscious awareness of sensations are only possible because representations and meta-representations occupy different brain loci and can therefore be damaged (or survive) independently of each other, at least in humans.
(A monkey can develop a phantom limb but never Anton’s syndrome or hysterical paralysis.)
Even hypnotic induction in normal people can generate such dissociations—so-called “hidden observer” phenomena—leading to intriguing questions such as ‘Can you hypnotically eliminate denial in an Anton’s patient or demonstrate a form of blindsight after hypnotically inducing blindness in someone?’.
Ramachandran distinguishes between seeing something and knowing that you see it.
Qualia arise when you know that you see it.
Qualia are the sensation of the sensation, but bear in mind that these two levels are only weakly analogous; it is not recursive!
These two levels are in our genes and not a mere cultural construct.
In a film if we see a blind person guess who has come into a room we are not surprised.
A recent movie (the Blind Samurai?) tells of a blind swordsman.
We find this sufficiently plausible, perhaps due to an implicit acceptance of something like blindsight.
This sort of fits with my notes on consciousness but there is work to be done.