Knowing what to believe

Self-awareness is key to wisdom

Just like the ancient Greek maxim “know thyself”, new cognitive neuroscience suggest that cultivating self-awareness is key to wisdom. Stephen M Fleming outlines new experiments that image the brain as we make decisions and considers how we can know what to believe.

 

As a student on a summer break from my psychology degree, I spent a few weeks traveling alone around China. Much of the trip was spent on long, rambling train journeys where pleasantries with my fellow passengers were exchanged via hand signals and a few halting words of Mandarin. There was plenty of time to think while watching the landscape roll by. The book in my backpack was conducive to this – Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves, all about free will. Dennett’s thesis was that we can retain a sense of being free while still acknowledging the determinism inherent in the brain and mind (a view known as compatibilism in philosophy). To me it made a lot of sense (and still does) to

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