In his most recent book, “Self Comes to Mind”, the Portuguese neurologist and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues for a theory of consciousness based on the notion of self-consciousness. Specifically, Damasio proposes a “hierarchization of selves”, the first and lowest level being the proto-self, after which comes the core-self and finally, the autobiographical self. According to this view, it is only at the level of the core-self that consciousness truly begins to emerge. Without a core-self (paraphrasing Damasio), the mind remains nothing more than a wholly unconscious stream of images.
Among the many thinkers who have raised their voices against this theory is most notably the philosopher Ned Block. According to Block, Damasio’s idea of a consciousness based upon a core-self is overly “sophisticated”, as it fails to take into account the phenomenal experience which humans “share with many animals”.
In an attempt to prove his point, Ned Block and a a group of his fellow scientists from New York University, upon analysis of a few MRI's of Damasio's brain, managed to isolate and visualize Damasio's actual core-self, of which the picture above is a 3D computer generated rendering. “This image”, Block stated in a recent press release, “allows us to finally understand why Professor Damasio consistently misconstrues the nature of phenomenal experience in his books. As we can plainly see, his own core-self, far from being the smooth and diaphanous bubble growing around the autonomous phenomenal consciousness as is the case in normal people, has developed this gruesome shell with creepy little tumors all around, no doubt due to years of unrestrained neuroscience abuse. Thus, the qualia which are naturally experienced by regular individuals are trapped underneath Damasio’s crusty core-self, which explains why he has absolutely no idea they exist independently of any sense of selfhood”.
With this empirical study Block has effectively demonstrated that while Damasio's theory of consciousness is utterly false as a description of consciousness in normal human beings, it is actually accurate as a description of Damasio's own consciousness and therefore, in a fascinating turn of events, Damasio's theory which aimed at being an objective description of subjective phenomenal conscious experience turns out to be objective only insofar at it is subjective to Damasio himself. When confronted with this evidence, Damasio is quoted as having only answered: "how the hell did you get MRI's of my brain?!", thus evading the real issue completely and focusing only on his own self, in agreement with Block's findings.