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For most men, climbing to the top of the medical profession, occupying a university chair, editing and contributing to the most authoritative textbook in their field, writing more than 200 scientific papers, chairing committees at the Royal College of Physicians and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (among many other administrative tasks), running a specialised clinic for epilepsy in old age and undertaking the normal but onerous clinical duties of a consultant geriatrician would consume as much energy as they could reasonably muster. Certainly, it would be enough to receive a eulogy well above average in the obituary columns of the British Medical Journal.

But these are just the beginning of the accomplishments of Professor Raymond Tallis, who retired recently from the chair of geriatric medicine at Manchester University. He is also a philosopher whose work is treated with respect by professional philosophers. Among other things, he is the foremost critic of literary theory in the country, as well as a firm (and, what is not always the same thing, a well-informed) opponent of the view that the brain is but a computer. He is also an anti-Darwinian, not in the sense that he believes the world was created in six days and that the species are immutable, but in the sense that the neo-Darwinian account of Man is completely inadequate and does not in the slightest account for the phenomena of human existence.

If there is one characteristic that his writing always exemplifies, it is intellectual honesty. Pretension, either to profundity or to understanding, is his enemy, and he is always a devastating critic of it wherever he finds it. He is not a mystic, but he has a sense of mystery. He has no compunction in openly admitting our current state of scientific ignorance, but he does not think that we should therefore behave epistemologically like the geographers lampooned by Swift:


So geographers in Afric maps

With savage pictures fill their gaps,

And o'er unhabitable downs

Place elephants for want of towns.


In other words, we should openly admit what we don't know rather than pretend to knowledge that we don't have. This is a less common attitude than it ought to be.

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Mong H Tan, PhD
April 14th, 2010
7:04 PM
RE: Underrated Tallis? -- An aspiring modern philosopher of ME (Mind & Emotion, including morality & ethics)!? Scholarly, I just began to take notice on Tallis' work recently; I thought he is uniquely qualified to take a crack on the challenging philosophy of ME or consciousness of today -- a subject matter that he seems to be pressing on in earnest in recent years, after retiring from his well-distinguished medical practice. Unfortunately, Tallis' current readings in the subject matter of consciousness seem to be self-misguided; neither advanced nor accurate in science or philosophy, as in one comment that I made of his "consciousness" writing here: "The unnatural selection of consciousness -- RE: Commentary on Tallis' understanding of consciousness!?" (PhilosophyPressUK; August 14, 2009) -- [in which I further suggested that the science-philosophy readers might appreciate my recent query and presentation of "consciousness" properties and "memory and recall" mechanisms (including the processes of imagining; perceiving; dreaming; etc) in my seminal book "Gods, Genes, Conscience" (links below; and please see Chapter 15: The Universal Theory of Mind; especially, section 15.4, Memory Modulation and Recall: A New Hypothesis of Psychic Imagery, Perceptivity, Creativity, and Reflectivity; section 15.5, Lights, Music, Matching Band, and A Spherical Cinema: An Analogy and A New Model of Mind/Gods as Perceived through Both the Scientific and Spiritual Prisms, Extrinsic and Intrinsic, respectively; and section 15.6, New Understanding of Consciousness, Intelligence, Creativity, Dreams, Drives, and Hypnotism), etc.] Furthermore, Tallis' recent readings in consciousness, have been primarily focusing on the traditional "philosophical definitions" of the subject matter; whereas with his well-qualified medical training and reading background (including neurology, endocrinology, cardiology, psychiatry, etc), he should do well -- or even better -- by concentrating his reading on the more advanced "modern definitions" of consciousness, such as Jung's "spirituality" vs. Freud's "sexuality" definitions of consciousness -- or the "collective unconscious" vs. the "subjective subconscious," etc, to begin with -- before his further misreading and denying of the evermore advanced understanding of consciousness, such as "neurotheosophy," neurotheology, neurophilosophy, etc; as all the mechanisms of our reading, understanding, memory, consciousness, and the subconscious, are all processed and modulated by our physiologically developed neuro-endocrino-cardiac systems; all are experienced and eminated in and from our body and brain within. Best wishes, Mong 4/14/10usct1:33p; practical science-philosophy critic; author "Decoding Scientism" and "Consciousness & the Subconscious" (works in progress since July 2007), Gods, Genes, Conscience (iUniverse; 2006) and Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now (blogging avidly since 2006).

Sidney Whitaker
January 10th, 2010
9:01 PM
No significant comment? I was refreshing my search in Tallis' work, and found this article. Then, the CAPTCHA intrigued me...! I've read & bought some of his works, and corresponded with him. In particular, I share his interest in Paul Valéry, and understanding of consciousness.

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