In the midst of the ongoing debate over the uniqueness of Christ and of Christianity, Stanislas Breton’s work Unicité et monothéisme offers new categories of reflection which may come to bridge the fundamental theological differences between pluralist and inclusivist perspectives. While his notions of méontology and of the Cross as the symbol of self-effacement create a radical openness to the distinctive truth of other religious traditions, this openness is itself firmly grounded within Christian self-understanding. Breton also reminds us that (...) the ultimate Christian basis for salvation lies not so much in assent to particular doctrines, but in the act of total self-givenness to others, in particular to “the least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25). (shrink)
In the aftermath of the debate between Derrida and Levinas on Hebraism and Hellenism, Christian thought that retains a place for philosophy is often regarded as “Graeco‐Christian”, a monolithic system with an unfortunate history. The work of the French philosopher Stansilas Breton suggests that the reality is more complex. In Le Verbe et la croix , he examines the function of the term logos staurou in Paul, arguing that this untranslatable term stands as a question mark in a world of (...) language that could only speak “Jew” or “Greek”. Far from being a sign of Christian superiority, the cross signals an imperative for dispossession intrinsic to Christian language. In its “nothingness” the cross functions as a principle of critique that makes innovation and engagement possible. Thus while the cross involves negation it moves beyond negative theology. Drawing upon neoplatonist philosophy, Breton delineates the way in which the cross makes possible “the writing of the self in the world”. This paper draws upon Breton's understanding of the function of the cross to argue that the heritage of Athens endures and must be re‐thought, always recognizing the limits of all human language. After examining Breton's understanding of the logos staurou, it relates this notion to his broader understanding of revelation as “writing”. Finally it shows how Breton appeals to neoplatonist meonotology to speak in more universal terms of the need for a principle of dispossession at the heart of all religious language. For Christians the cross is this principle, enabling human beings to be causes of themselves who engender new being. (shrink)
Amidst the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which are specifically associated with conscious perception, and which merely reflect non-conscious processing? Several recent neuroimaging studies have contrasted conscious and non-conscious visual processing, but their results appear inconsistent. Some support a correlation of conscious perception with early occipital events, others with late parieto-frontal activity. Here we attempt to make sense of those dissenting results. On the basis of a minimal neuro-computational model, the global neuronal workspace hypothesis, we propose a (...) taxonomy which distinguishes between vigilance and access to conscious report, as well as between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing. We suggest that these distinctions map onto different neural mechanisms, and that conscious perception is systematically associated with a sudden surge of parieto-frontal activity causing top-down amplification. (shrink)
Is calculation possible without language? Or is the human ability for arithmetic dependent on the language faculty? To clarify the relation between language and arithmetic, we studied numerical cognition in speakers of Mundurukú, an Amazonian language with a very small lexicon of number words. Although the Mundurukú lack words for numbers beyond 5, they are able to compare and add large approximate numbers that are far beyond their naming range. However, they fail in exact arithmetic with numbers larger than 4 (...) or 5. Our results imply a distinction between a nonverbal system of number approximation and a language-based counting system for exact number and arithmetic. (shrink)
The mapping of numbers onto space is fundamental to measurement and to mathematics. Is this mapping a cultural invention or a universal intuition shared by all humans regardless of culture and education? We probed number-space mappings in the Mundurucu, an Amazonian indigene group with a reduced numerical lexicon and little or no formal education. At all ages, the Mundurucu mapped symbolic and nonsymbolic numbers onto a logarithmic scale, whereas Western adults used linear mapping with small or symbolic numbers and logarithmic (...) mapping when numbers were presented nonsymbolically under conditions that discouraged counting. This indicates that the mapping of numbers onto space is a universal intuition and that this initial intuition of number is logarithmic. The concept of a linear number line appears to be a cultural invention that fails to develop in the absence of formal education. (shrink)
Does geometry constitues a core set of intuitions present in all humans, regarless of their language or schooling ? We used two non verbal tests to probe the conceptual primitives of geometry in the Munduruku, an isolated Amazonian indigene group. Our results provide evidence for geometrical intuitions in the absence of schooling, experience with graphic symbols or maps, or a rich language of geometrical terms.
What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience. This engaging book -- part scientific overview, part memoir, part futurist speculation -- describes Koch's search for an empirical explanation for consciousness. Koch recounts not only the birth of the modern (...) science of consciousness but also the subterranean motivation for his quest -- his instinctual belief that life is meaningful. Koch describes his own groundbreaking work with Francis Crick in the 1990s and 2000s and the gradual emergence of consciousness as a legitimate topic for scientific investigation. Present at this paradigm shift were Koch and a handful of colleagues, including Ned Block, David Chalmers, Stanislas Dehaene, Giulio Tononi, Wolf Singer, and others. Aiding and abetting it were new techniques to listen in on the activity of individual nerve cells, clinical studies, and brain-imaging technologies that allowed safe and noninvasive study of the human brain in action. Koch gives us stories from the front lines of modern research into the neurobiology of consciousness as well as his own reflections on a variety of topics, including the distinction between attention and awareness, the unconscious, how neurons respond to Homer Simpson, the physics and biology of free will, dogs, _Der Ring des Nibelungen_, sentient machines, the loss of his belief in a personal God, and sadness. All of them are signposts in the pursuit of his life's work -- to uncover the roots of consciousness. (shrink)