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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.

Google Books preview:

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new book – ‘Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind: Learning from the Unwell Brain’ by Georg Northoff

December 19, 2015

Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind

Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind: Learning from the Unwell Brain by Georg Northoff (W.W. Norton & Co., 2016)

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

Book description from the publisher:

Applying insights from neuroscience to philosophical questions about the self, consciousness, and the healthy mind.

Can we “see” or “find” consciousness in the brain? How can we create working definitions of consciousness and subjectivity, informed by what contemporary research and technology have taught us about how the brain works? How do neuronal processes in the brain relate to our experience of a personal identity? Where does the brain end and the mind begin?

To explore these and other questions, esteemed philosopher and neuroscientist Georg Northoff turns to examples of unhealthy minds. By investigating consciousness through its absence?in people in vegetative states, for example?we can develop a model for understanding its presence in an active, healthy person. By examining instances of distorted self-recognition in people with psychiatric disorders, like schizophrenia, we can begin to understand how the experience of “self” is established in a stable brain.

Taking an integrative approach to understanding the self, consciousness, and what it means to be mentally healthy, this book brings insights from neuroscience to bear on philosophical questions. Readers will find a science-grounded examination of the human condition with far-reaching implications for psychology, medicine, our daily lives, and beyond.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book on consciousness – ‘Men of Action’ by Howard Akler

November 17, 2015

Men of Action

Men of Action (Exploded Views) by Howard Akler (Coach House Books, 2015)

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

Book description from the publisher:

The problem of consciousness may just be a semantic one. The brain absorbs a sea of sensory input, the tiniest fraction of which reaches the shore of our awareness. We pay attention to what is most novel, most necessary at the time. At its most reductive, the word consciousness refers to the synchronized firing of neurons across multiple areas of the brain, the mental experience of attending.

But should consciousness be summed up simply by its subsconscious mechanism? I would prefer a more imaginative answer.

After his father undergoes brain surgery and slips into a coma, Howard Akler begins to reflect on the complicated texture of consciousness. During the long months that follow, Akler confronts the unknowable nature of another person’s life, as well as the struggles within his own unpredictable mind. With echoes of Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude and Philip Roth’s Patrimony, Men of Action treads the line between memoir and meditation, and is at once elegiac, spare and profoundly intimate.

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new book – ‘New Directions in Consciousness Studies: SoS Theory and the Nature of Time’ by Chris Nunn

October 27, 2015

New Directions in Consciousness Studies

New Directions in Consciousness Studies: SoS Theory and the Nature of Time by Chris Nunn (Routledge, 2015)

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

Book description from the publisher:

New Directions in Consciousness Studies describes a range of fresh ideas which promise to significantly advance scientific understanding of human nature. Written in non-specialized language, the book draws upon concepts and research from history, philosophy, neuroscience and physics to delineate new approaches to the study of consciousness.

Early chapters deal with a range of ideas about our nature, and suggest that mind can usefully be viewed as a type of dynamic landscape. The account shows how our minds relate to their societies, brains and bodies and how they differ from computers. Later chapters develop a theory of the basis of consciousness (SoS theory). Using the physical concept of ‘broken symmetry’ the author shows how conscious mind may be rooted in temporality; a view that is supported by the occurrence of a wide range of anomalous phenomena. Potentially valuable future lines of research are identified.

This is a unique and engaging book that will appeal to students and academics in the field of consciousness studies and other readers with an interest in consciousness.

Google Books preview:

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new book – ‘Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action and the Embodied Mind’ by Andy Clark

October 12, 2015

Surfing Uncertainty

Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind by Andy Clark (Oxford University Press, 2015)

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

Book description from the publisher:

How is it that thoroughly physical material beings such as ourselves can think, dream, feel, create and understand ideas, theories and concepts? How does mere matter give rise to all these non-material mental states, including consciousness itself? An answer to this central question of our existence is emerging at the busy intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

In this groundbreaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores exciting new theories from these fields that reveal minds like ours to be prediction machines – devices that have evolved to anticipate the incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. These predictions then initiate actions that structure our worlds and alter the very things we need to engage and predict. Clark takes us on a journey in discovering the circular causal flows and the self-structuring of the environment that define “the predictive brain.” What emerges is a bold, new, cutting-edge vision that reveals the brain as our driving force in the daily surf through the waves of sensory stimulation.

See also: Author’s webpage

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