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Reviews

The Consciousness Instinct
2018-06-25

I am obsessed with accounts of consciousness - I came to Caversham from the philosophy of mind and cognitive science side of the family. Gazzaniga’s new book, The Consciousness Instinct is a fun and exciting addition to the field. Consciousness is the mystery (the so-called ‘hard problem’) precisely because it represents the interface between the subjective experience and the objective world. Many folks who are hard-core materialists, who think that all things have straight-forward scientific explanations, get weak in the knees when it comes to explaining consciousness. Not so with Mr. Gazzaniga, he dives right in and embraces the mystery. The scope of this book is, frankly, epic. He goes back to the dawn of life itself, to show how physical systems can be both self-determining and deterministic. Even more interesting are his arguments about the modularity of consciousness (and indeed all brain systems). Rather than thinking of consciousness as hard to define, he thinks it’s actually harder to kill off - consciousness seems to persist even when everything else in the brain and body has failed, such as in dementia. And although he initially seems to be dismissive of top-down views (rather than bio-mechanical), his arguments about the mind’s semantic and symbolic processing seem to leave more than enough room for psychoanalysis and other interpretive disciplines. Overall, a great read! -karl

by: Michael Gazzaniga

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