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Archive for 'self'

new book – ‘Are You an Illusion?’ by Mary Midgley

April 13, 2014

Are you an illusion?

Are You an Illusion? by Mary Midgley (Acumen, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Renowned philosopher Mary Midgley explores the remarkable gap that has opened up between our own understanding of our sense of our self and today’s scientific orthodoxy that claims the self to be nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Bringing her formidable acuity and analytic skills to bear, she exposes some very odd claims and muddled thinking on the part of cognitive scientists and psychologists when it comes to talk about the self. Well-known philosophical problems in causality, subjectivity, empiricism, free will and determinism are shown to have been glossed over by scientists claiming that the self is no more than a jumble of brain-cells. Midgley argues powerfully and persuasively that the rich variety of our imaginative life cannot be contained in the narrow bounds of a highly puritanical materialism that equates brain and self. The denial of the self has been sustained by the belief that physical science requires it, but there is not just one such pattern of thought but many others which all help to explain the different kinds of problems that arise in our life, argues Midgley. Physics’ amazing contemporary successes spring from attacking problems that arise within physics, not from outside. It is no more sensible to give a physical answer to a moral problem than it is to give political answers to physical ones. ‘Are you an Illusion?’ is an impassioned defence of the importance of our own experiences – the subjective sources of thought – which are every bit as necessary for the world as the objective ones such as brain cells.

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new book – ‘Mental Biology: The New Science of How the Brain and Mind Relate’ by W.R. Klemm

April 8, 2014

Mental Biology

Mental Biology: The New Science of How the Brain and Mind Relate by W.R. Klemm (Prometheus, 2014)

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

Book description from the publisher:

A leading neuroscientist offers the latest research and many new ideas on the connections between brain circuitry and conscious experience.

How the mysterious three-pound organ in our heads creates the rich array of human mental experience, including the sense of self and consciousness, is one of the great challenges of 21st-century science. Veteran neuroscientist W. R. Klemm presents the latest research findings on this elusive brain-mind connection in a lucidly presented, accessible, and engaging narrative.

The author focuses on how mind emerges from nerve-impulse patterns in the densely-packed neural circuits that make up most of the brain, suggesting that conscious mind can be viewed as a sort of neural-activity-based avatar. As an entity in its own right, mind on the conscious level can have significant independent action, shaping the brain that sustains it through its plans, goals, interests, and interactions with the world. Thus, in a very literal sense, we become what we think.

Against researchers who argue that conscious mind is merely a passive observer and free will an illusion, the author presents evidence showing that mental creativity, freedom to act, and personal responsibility are very real. He also delves into the role of dream sleep in both animals and humans, and explains the brain-based differences between nonconscious, unconscious, and conscious minds.

Written in a jargon-free style understandable to the lay reader, this is a fascinating synthesis of recent neuroscience and intriguing hypotheses.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love’ by Simon Blackburn

February 28, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love by Simon Blackburn (Princeton University Press, 2014)

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

Book description from the publisher:

Everyone deplores narcissism, especially in others. The vain are by turns annoying or absurd, offending us whether they are blissfully oblivious or proudly aware of their behavior. But are narcissism and vanity really as bad as they seem? Can we avoid them even if we try? In Mirror, Mirror, Simon Blackburn, the author of such best-selling philosophy books as Think, Being Good, and Lust, says that narcissism, vanity, pride, and self-esteem are more complex than they first appear and have innumerable good and bad forms. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, history, and popular culture, Blackburn offers an enlightening and entertaining exploration of self-love, from the myth of Narcissus and the Christian story of the Fall to today’s self-esteem industry.

A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love–from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch. It considers today’s “me”-related obsessions, such as the “selfie,” plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish–let alone strike a balance–between good and bad forms of self-concern.

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early kindle release – ‘The Mirror of the World: Subjects, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness’ by Christopher Peacocke

February 10, 2014

The Mirror of the World

The Mirror of the World: Subjects, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness by Christopher Peacocke (Oxford University Press, 2014)

(Hardcover at Amazon – 4/27/14), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Christopher Peacocke presents a philosophical theory of subjects of consciousness, together with a theory of the nature of first person representation of such a subject of consciousness. He develops a new treatment of subjects, distinct from previous theories, under which subjects were regarded either as constructs from mental events, or fundamentally embodied, or Cartesian egos. In contrast, his theory of the first person integrates with the positive treatment of subjects–and it contributes to the explanation of various distinctive first person phenomena in the theory of thought and knowledge. These are issues on which contributions have been made by some of the greatest philosophers, and Peacocke brings his points to bear on the contributions to these issues made by Hume, Kant, Frege, Wittgenstein, and Strawson. He also relates his position to the recent literature in the philosophy of mind, and then goes on to distinguish and characterize three varieties of self-consciousness. Perspectival self-consciousness involves the subject’s capacity to appreciate that she is of the same kind as things given in a third personal way, and attributes the subject to a certain kind of objective thought about herself. Reflective self-consciousness involves awareness of the subject’s own mental states, reached in a distinctive way. Interpersonal self-consciousness is awareness that one features, as a subject, in some other person’s mental states. These varieties, and the relations and the forms of co-operation between them, are important in explaining features of our knowledge, our social relations, and our emotional lives. The theses of The Mirror of the World are of importance not only for philosophy, but also for psychology, the arts, and anywhere else that the self and self-representation loom large.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s Facebook page

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new book – ‘Human Memory: A Constructivist View’ by Mary B. Howes and Geoffrey O’Shea

February 6, 2014

Human Memory

Human Memory: A Constructivist View by Mary B. Howes and Geoffrey O’Shea (Academic Press, 2014)

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

Book description from the publisher:

While memory research has recently focused on brain images and neurological underpinnings of transmitters, Human Memory: A Constructivist View assesses how our individual identity affects what we remember, why and how. This book brings memory back to the constructivist questions of how all the experiences of an individual, up to the point of new memory input, help to determine what that person pays attention to, how that information is interpreted, and how all that ultimately affects what goes into memory and how it is stored. This also affects what can be recalled later and what kind of memory distortions are likely to occur.

The authors describe constructionist theories of memory, what they predict, how this is borne out in research findings, presenting everyday life examples for better understanding of the material and interest. Intended for memory researchers and graduate level courses, this book is an excellent summary of human memory research from the constructivist perspective.

  • Defines constructivist theory in memory research
  • Assesses research findings relative to constructivist predictions
  • Identifies how personal experience dictates attention, interpretation, and storage
  • Integrates constructivist based findings with cognitive neuroscience

Google Books preview:

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