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Archive for 'new books'

new book – ‘On Being Human: Why Mind Matters’ by Jerome Kagan

March 10, 2016

On Being Human

On Being Human: Why Mind Matters by Jerome Kagan (Yale University Press, 2016)

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

Book description from the publisher:

In this thought-provoking book, psychologist Jerome Kagan urges readers to sally forth from their usual comfort zones. He ponders a series of important nodes of debate while challenging us to examine what we know and why we know it. Most critically he presents an elegant argument for functions of mind that cannot be replaced with sentences about brains while acknowledging that mind emerges from brain activity.

Kagan relies on the evidence to argue that thoughts and emotions are distinct from their biological and genetic bases. In separate chapters he deals with the meaning of words, kinds of knowing, the powerful influence of social class, the functions of education, emotion, morality, and other issues. And without fail he sheds light on these ideas while remaining honest to their complexity.

Thoughtful and eloquent, Kagan’s On Being Human places him firmly in the tradition of Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne, whose appealing blend of intellectual insight, personal storytelling, and careful judgment has attracted readers for centuries.

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Comments (0) - cognitive science,new books,psychology

new book – ‘The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness’ by David Gelernter

February 22, 2016

Tides of Mind

The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness by David Gelernter (Liveright, 2016)

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

Book description from the publisher:

A “rock star” (New York Times) of the computing world provides a radical new work on the meaning of human consciousness.

The holy grail of psychologists and scientists for nearly a century has been to understand and replicate both human thought and the human mind. In fact, it’s what attracted the now-legendary computer scientist and AI authority David Gelernter to the discipline in the first place. As a student and young researcher in the 1980s, Gelernter hoped to build a program with a dial marked “focus.” At maximum “focus,” the program would “think” rationally, formally, reasonably. As the dial was turned down and “focus” diminished, its “mind” would start to wander, and as you dialed even lower, this artificial mind would start to free-associate, eventually ignoring the user completely as it cruised off into the mental adventures we know as sleep.

While the program was a only a partial success, it laid the foundation for The Tides of Mind, a groundbreaking new exploration of the human psyche that shows us how the very purpose of the mind changes throughout the day. Indeed, as Gelernter explains, when we are at our most alert, when reasoning and creating new memories is our main mental business, the mind is a computer-like machine that keeps emotion on a short leash and attention on our surroundings. As we gradually tire, however, and descend the “mental spectrum,” reasoning comes unglued. Memory ranges more freely, the mind wanders, and daydreams grow more insistent. Self-awareness fades, reflection blinks out, and at last we are completely immersed in our own minds.

With far-reaching implications, Gelernter’s landmark “Spectrum of Consciousness” finally helps decode some of the most mysterious wonders of the human mind, such as the numinous light of early childhood, why dreams are so often predictive, and why sadism and masochism underpin some of our greatest artistic achievements. It’s a theory that also challenges the very notion of the mind as a machine?and not through empirical studies or “hard science” but by listening to our great poets and novelists, who have proven themselves as humanity’s most trusted guides to the subjective mind and inner self.

In the great introspective tradition of Wilhelm Wundt and René Descartes, David Gelernter promises to not only revolutionize our understanding of what it means to be human but also to help answer many of our most fundamental questions about the origins of creativity, thought, and consciousness.

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new book – ‘The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained’ by Whitley Streiber and Jeffrey J. Kripal

February 7, 2016

The Super Natural

The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained by Whitley Streiber and Jeffrey J. Kripal (Tarcher, 2016)
,
(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK Kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Two of today’s maverick authors on anomalous experience present a perception-altering and intellectually thrilling analysis of why the paranormal is real, but radically different from what is conventionally
understood.

Whitley Strieber (Communion) and Jeffrey J. Kripal (J. Newton Rayzor professor of religion at Rice University) team up on this unprecedented and intellectually vibrant new framing of inexplicable events and experiences.

Rather than merely document the anomalous, these authors–one the man who popularized alien abduction and the other a renowned scholar and “renegade advocate for including the paranormal in religious studies” (The New York Times)–deliver a fast-paced and exhilarating study of why the supernatural is neither fantasy nor fiction but a vital and authentic aspect of life.

Their suggestion? That all kinds of “impossible” things, from extra-dimensional beings to bilocation to bumps in the night, are not impossible at all: rather,  they are a part of our natural world. But this natural world is immeasurably more weird, more wonderful, and probably more populated than we have so far imagined with our current categories and cultures, which are what really make these things seem “impossible.”

The Super Natural considers that the natural world is actually a “super natural world”–and all we have to do to see this is to change the lenses through which we are looking at it and the languages through which we are presently limiting it. In short: The extraordinary exists if we know how to look at and think about it.

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Comments (0) - new books,reality

new book – ‘A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age: Scientific Habits of Mind’ by David J. Helfand

February 3, 2016

Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age

A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age: Scientific Habits of Mind by David J. Helfand (Columbia University Press, 2016)

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

Book description from the publisher:

We live in the Information Age, with billions of bytes of data just two swipes away. Yet how much of this is mis- or even disinformation? A lot of it is, and your search engine can’t tell the difference. As a result, an avalanche of misinformation threatens to overwhelm the discourse we so desperately need to address complex social problems such as climate change, the food and water crises, biodiversity collapse, and emerging threats to public health. This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. Anyone can do it?indeed, everyone must do it if our species is to survive on this crowded and finite planet.

This survival guide supplies an essential set of apps for the prefrontal cortex while making science both accessible and entertaining. It will dissolve your fear of numbers, demystify graphs, and elucidate the key concepts of probability, all while celebrating the precise use of language and logic. David Helfand, one of our nation’s leading astronomers and science educators, has taught scientific habits of mind to generations in the classroom, where he continues to wage a provocative battle against sloppy thinking and the encroachment of misinformation.

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Comments (0) - culture,new books,psychology

new book – ‘Puzzling Identities’ by Vincent Descombes

January 29, 2016

Puzzling Identities

Puzzling Identities (Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series) by Vincent Descombes, tr. Stephen Adam Schwartz (Harvard University Press, 2016)

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

Book description from the publisher:

As a logical concept, identity refers to one and the same thing. So why, Vincent Descombes asks, do we routinely use “identity” to describe the feelings associated with membership in a number of different communities, as when we speak of our ethnic identity and religious identity? And how can we ascribe the same “identity” to more than one individual in a group? In Puzzling Identities, one of the leading figures in French philosophy seeks to bridge the abyss between the logical meaning of identity and the psychological sense of “being oneself.”

Bringing together an analytic conception of identity derived from Gottlob Frege with a psychosocial understanding stemming from Erik Erikson, Descombes contrasts a rigorously philosophical notion of identity with ideas of collective identity that have become crucial in contemporary cultural and political discourse. He returns to an argument of ancient Greek philosophy about the impossibility of change for a material individual. Distinguishing between reflexive and expressive views of “being oneself,” he shows the connections between subjective identity and one’s life and achievements. We form profound attachments to the particular communities by which we define ourselves. At the same time, becoming oneself as a modern individual requires a process of disembedding oneself from one’s social milieu. This is how undergoing a crisis of identity while coming of age has become for us a normal stage in human life.

Puzzling Identities demonstrates why a person has more than one answer to the essential question “Who am I?”

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