Walter J.Freeman

How Brains Make Up Their Mind

Phoenix 1999

freemanMusic.html: On The Origins of Music - sociality - trust

brain - meaning - intentionality - behaviours - humans socialisation - awareness - consciousness - assimilation -
"goal directed actions"
causality -


Self-control and Intentionality

Who is really in charge: you or your brain?  And if it isn't your brain, who or what are you that you should have this power?  The philosopher Rene Descartes conceived of the body, which includes the brain, as a machine piloted by the soul.  According to this view, whether you call yourself a soul, the spirit, a free agent, or something else, you control your brain; or at least, you could or should if you have the knowledge and strength. 

But recent developments in the brain sciences have called into question whether you or your brain actually have any control at all. 


Volition - Intentionality
I will begin by giving a name to the process by which goal-directed actions are generated in the brains of humans and other animals. Such goal directed actions would often be called "voluntary" when they are done by humans but not by animals, because many people think that only humans have the capacity to will their actions. 

  ... I describe my conception of meaning, how it is created by the processes of intentionality, and how it is expressed in symbols, gestures and words comprising representations. 

I propose that meanings arise as the brain creates intentional behaviours and then changes itself in accordance with the sensory consequences of those behaviours.


In chapter 4 these concepts of dynamics will be applied to the first steps of perception following environmental impact on to the senses, in which the brain responds to the world by destabilising the primary sensory cortices of the brain. 

The result is the construction of neural activity patterns, which provide the elements of which meaning is made.  When the freshly made patterns are transmitted to other parts of the brain, the raw sense data are that triggered them are washed away.  What remains is what has been made within the brain.


pg 17
Meaning, Representaion and Intentionality
A fundamental and enduring human activity is the search for meaning.  What we're looking for is not something we can define, because the form that meaning takes is unique for each person.  Nor is it necessary to try to define it, because it is universally experienced in the drawing of realising it and in the pain of losing are lacking it.  People seeking meaningful relationships, experiences and causes.  What distinguishes these from meaningless situations, chance encounters, and lost causes the richness of context and the promise of a continuing emergence throughout personal choices of interesting and fruitful complications.

pg 27

If the brain does not merely react to received stimuli, how do actions originate in the brain?  If the external world is infinite in the sensory stimuli that it gives to the body, how does the brain select what is of immediate importance for it? 

When awareness occurs, what is its biological nature, and what does it do?  Is awareness necessary for meaning, and if so, in what way?  Above all, how does the activity of neurons produce the unity, wholeness and intent that characterises intentional behaviour and meaning?

pg 40
Self Organisation

What do pragmatists have that can replace these compelling metaphors of energy driving us from outside? 

They have self organisation, meaning that the self organises itself.  We drive ourselves?

Humans evolved from simpler creatures, and these earlier forms exhibit precursors of our rich varied intentional behaviour. 


Intentional action is directed by internally generated goals and takesplace in the time and space of the world shared with other intentional beings.
In each hemisphere the sensory cortex receives input, the motor cortex implements action, and the hippocampus provides multisensory integration and orientation in space and time.