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$1.99 Kindle Daily Deal for Thurs. 10/30 – ‘How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer’ by Sarah Bakewell

October 30, 2014

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new book – ‘Consciousness’ by Josh Weisberg

October 27, 2014

Consciousness

Consciousness (Polity Key Concepts in Philosophy) by Josh Weisberg (Polity, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Each of us, right now, is having a unique conscious experience. Nothing is more basic to our lives as thinking beings and nothing, it seems, is better known to us. But the ever-expanding reach of natural science suggests that everything in our world is ultimately physical. The challenge of fitting consciousness into our modern scientific worldview, of taking the subjective “feel” of conscious experience and showing that it is just neural activity in the brain, is among the most intriguing explanatory problems of our times.

In this book, Josh Weisberg presents the range of contemporary responses to the philosophical problem of consciousness. The basic philosophical tools of the trade are introduced, including thought experiments featuring Mary the color-deprived super scientist and fearsome philosophical “zombies”. The book then systematically considers the space of philosophical theories of consciousness. Dualist and other “non-reductive” accounts of consciousness hold that we must expand our basic physical ontology to include the intrinsic features of consciousness. Functionalist and identity theories, by contrast, hold that with the right philosophical stage-setting, we can fit consciousness into the standard scientific picture. And “mysterians” hold that any solution to the problem is beyond such small-minded creatures as us.

Throughout the book, the complexity of current debates on consciousness is handled in a clear and concise way, providing the reader with a fine introductory guide to the rich philosophical terrain. The work makes an excellent entry point to one of the most exciting areas of study in philosophy and science today.

See also: Author’s webpage

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out in paperback – ‘On Reflection’ by Hilary Kornblith

October 25, 2014

On Reflection

On Reflection by Hilary Kornblith (Oxford University Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Hilary Kornblith presents a new account of reflection, and its importance for knowledge, reasoning, freedom, and normativity. Philosophers have frequently extolled the value of reflective self-examination, and a wide range of philosophers, who differ on many other things, have argued that reflection can help to solve a number of significant philosophical problems. The importance of reflecting on one’s beliefs and desires has been viewed as the key to solving problems about justification and knowledge; about reasoning; about the nature of freedom; and about the source of normativity. In each case, a problem is identified which reflective self-examination is thought to address.
Kornblith argues that reflection cannot solve any of these problems. There is a common structure to these issues, and the problems which reflection is thought to resolve are ones which could not possibly be solved by reflecting on one’s beliefs and desires. More than this, he suggests that the attempt to solve these problems by appealing to reflection saddles us with a mystical view of the powers of reflective self-examination. Recognition of this fact motivates a search for a demystified view of the nature of reflection.
To this end, Kornblith offers a detailed examination of views about knowledge, reasoning, freedom, and normativity in order to better understand the motivations for extolling self-reflective examination. He explores both the logic of these views, and the psychological commitments they involve. In the final chapter, he offers a more realistic view of reflection, which draws on dual process approaches to cognition.

Google Books preview (hardcover ed.):

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are’ by Jennifer M. Groh

October 21, 2014

Making Space

Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are by Jennifer M. Groh (Belknap Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Knowing where things are seems effortless. Yet our brains devote tremendous computational power to figuring out the simplest details about spatial relationships. Going to the grocery store or finding our cell phone requires sleuthing and coordination across different sensory and motor domains. Making Space traces this mental detective work to explain how the brain creates our sense of location. But it goes further, to make the case that spatial processing permeates all our cognitive abilities, and that the brain’s systems for thinking about space may be the systems of thought itself.

Our senses measure energy in the form of light, sound, and pressure on the skin, and our brains evaluate these measurements to make inferences about objects and boundaries. Jennifer Groh describes how eyes detect electromagnetic radiation, how the brain can locate sounds by measuring differences of less than one one-thousandth of a second in how long they take to reach each ear, and how the ear’s balance organs help us monitor body posture and movement. The brain synthesizes all this neural information so that we can navigate three-dimensional space.

But the brain’s work doesn’t end there. Spatial representations do double duty in aiding memory and reasoning. This is why it is harder to remember how to get somewhere if someone else is driving, and why, if we set out to do something and forget what it was, returning to the place we started can jog our memory. In making space the brain uses powers we did not know we have.

See also: Author’s webpage

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new book – ‘How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness’ by Russ Roberts

October 18, 2014

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Russ Roberts (Portfolio, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A forgotten book by one of history’s greatest thinkers reveals the surprising connections between happiness, virtue, fame, and fortune.

Adam Smith may have become the patron saint of capitalism after he penned his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations. But few people know that when it came to the behavior of individuals—the way we perceive ourselves, the way we treat others, and the decisions we make in pursuit of happiness—the Scottish philosopher had just as much to say. He developed his ideas on human nature in an epic, sprawling work titled The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Most economists have never read it, and for most of his life, Russ Roberts was no exception. But when he finally picked up the book by the founder of his field, he realized he’d stumbled upon what might be the greatest self-help book that almost no one has read.

In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts examines Smith’s forgotten masterpiece, and finds a treasure trove of timeless, practical wisdom. Smith’s insights into human nature are just as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago. What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly entertaining.

By reinvigorating Smith’s neglected classic, Roberts provides us with an invaluable look at human behavior through the lens of one of history’s greatest minds.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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