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What are you reading? Ben Davies

By Noigroup HQ What are you reading? 11 Mar 2014

Ben Davies

Physiotherapist/PhD student

Podcast title:
BBC Reith Lectures, various authors

What are you drinking with it:
Double macchiato – (it’s early and I’m walking the dog)

Thoughts so far/quote:
The Reith lectures are an annual series started in 1948 to commemorate the first Director General of the BBC. Available to download through or iTunes they are a fantastic resource of thought provoking lectures from scientists, artists, philosophers amongst others.

Over the last few months I’ve listened to Colin Blackmore (1976), Steve Jones (1991), VS Ramachandran (2003), Martin Rees (2010), Niall Ferguson (2012) and Grayson Perry (2013). I wanted to pick up on what John Searle (1984) has to say on the emergent properties of tables.

He describes the table and glass of water at which he sits. The table and the water have properties such as solidity and wetness. These high level or macro properties are caused by the molecular or micro constituents of the table and the water. You cannot reach into a glass of water and extract a molecule and say that it is wet. The macro properties are caused by and realised in the system they consist of.

He continues that when we consider the person in pain, we might now say that their pain is in their brain as a conscious experience but we cannot isolate the neuron in which that experience resides.

Physiotherapists are increasingly expected to take on micro level neuroscience and to be able to apply that knowledge to the macro level of the patient in front of us. To be able to turn that neuroscience into therapeutic educational strategies and metaphors requires us to have a solid understanding of complex issues such as emergence.

John Searles’ Reith lecture maybe dated by his cultural references but his main thesis remains spot on to this day.

Quote: episode 3: We feel perfectly confident saying “Basil voted for the Tories because he liked Mrs Thatchers handling of the Falklands affair”, but we have no idea how to go about saying things like “Basil voted for the Tories because of a condition of his hypothalamus”.

Ben Davies is a graduate of the University of the West of England in Bristol. He spent 14 is the National Health System as a physiotherapist specialising in chronic pain. There was some road biking and fell running thrown in for good measure. Now back in Bristol he is half way through a PhD investigating management strategies for painful diabetic neuropathy. He has been an instructor with NOI for the past five years. 


  1. I love the line that we can’t reach into a glass and extract a molecule of water…….. equally we cannot reach into the brain and extract a thought. However they both exist…..

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