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A Review of On the Contexts of Things Human, by Ronald J. MacGregor
Journal of Integrative Neuroscience (2008)
  • Gin McCollum, Portland State University

This book reminds us that science should address the reality in front of us. MacGregor's main effort in the book is to map out phenomena, both internal and external, from the point of view of the human brain. A major point of departure for MacGregor's map is the compelling human experience of a certain limited autonomy. We do not experience ourselves as automata. MacGregor characterizes the opinion that we are the result only of deterministic mechanisms in this way: "Consciousness is a deluded rider in a slushy neurochemical machine. I think this position asks us to give away too much."

For his project of mapping phenomena in the human context, an important concept is "value", the judgment inherent in the individual human point of view. Value is necessarily "radial", in the sense that it sits in an individual history and context, along with a place and a time. MacGregor's characterization of value includes the recommendation: "To understand value it is better to directly experience its operations in an appropriate personal situation which requires a difficult choice". MacGregor recognizes that not only the human organism but also various neural subsystems have their own points of view and dynamics: "many brain systems and subsystems have their own internal energizations, inner logics, forward dynamic momenta, and thereby their own motivational dimensions". The inclusion of subsystems with their own points of view and dynamics is an essential issue for biological sciences of all kinds, including ecology and economics (exchanges of goods and services among organisms).

Publication Date
Citation Information
Gin McCollum. "A Review of On the Contexts of Things Human, by Ronald J. MacGregor" Journal of Integrative Neuroscience Vol. 7 Iss. 4 (2008)
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