Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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To Begin With

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pp. 1-12

How did the idea that humans are essentially their brains become thinkable? Why should it be considered a “creed” and not the articulation or corollary of a proven “scientific fact”? How is it expressed in notions and practices across a wide variety of domains in many con temporary socie ties? Does it really fashion people’s lives, and if yes, how and to what extent? These are the basic questions this book seeks to explore.
It is no news that since the “De cade of the Brain” of the 1990s, the brain has become a major focus of attention. Starting in the following de cade, that...

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1. Genealogy of the Cerebral Subject

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pp. 13-57

It may well be that nobody believes they literally are their brain. But when influential people proclaim it, we must take them at their word. Together with the brain in a vat, brain transplantation is one of the favorite thought experiments of phi los o phers of personal identity (Ferret 1993).1 It is usual to observe that if the brain of A were transplanted into the body of B, then A would gain a new body, rather than B a new brain. Commenting on that commonplace, Michael Gazzaniga (2005, 31), a leading neuroscientist, serenely asserted: “This simple fact makes it clear that you are your brain.”...

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2. Disciplines of the Neuro

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pp. 58-129

The previous chapter dealt in part with neuroascesis as a technology of the self and with neurobics as a package of self-care practices allegedly based on scientific knowledge and capable of acting directly on its user’s brain. From mid–nineteenth century exercises for the double brain or the phrenological organs to the twenty-first-century brain gym, cerebral self-help has been a commercial industry. But even if the regimens it sells are widely shared, those who buy them pursue the exclusively personal goal of improving or maintaining themselves. Thus, insofar as neuroascesis and...

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3. Cerebralizing Distress

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pp. 130-188

From our exploration of the neurodisciplines that deal with culture and cultural productions, we concluded that “cortex without context won’t do.” By this we meant to sum up the observation that the methodologies that require leaving out or are incapable of taking into account contextual factors turn out to miss the objects and pro cesses they claim to be studying— objects and pro cesses that are intrinsically contextual. But if there is an area where the role of context has been the focus of debate, it is the understanding and management of mental distress in all its forms. (We shall retain the term...

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4. Brains on Screen and Paper

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pp. 189-226

The previous chapters outlined the history of the cerebral subject and explored some of its key forms in con temporary society. This one deals with it in “fiction,” a term we place in quotation marks because, in this domain as in others, fiction is far from fictive. It is “real” not only for the simple reason that it exists but also because it has real effects and contributes to shape ways of being and forms of living. On the one hand, fictions of the sort we shall examine here are not merely literary or cinematographic renderings of brainhood- related philosophical problems and thought experiments...

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"Up for Grabs"

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pp. 227-232

We have just observed that lit er a ture and cinema perform the ce re bral subject and the ideology of brainhood in ways that both assert them and challenge them and that they enact the radical difference between the claim that “we are our brains” and the fact that we cannot be without one. This raises the question of who has the authority to examine whether and how we “are our brains” and points to the human sciences in their interpretive, contextualizing, and historicizing dimensions.1 Yet in most recent and con temporary contexts, it is chiefly the neurosciences that have claimed and generally obtained that authority....

Acknowledgments

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pp. 233-234

Notes

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pp. 235-242

Bibliography

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pp. 243-304

Index

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pp. 305-320