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The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head [Paperback]

Raymond Tallis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2009
From the act of blushing and the amount of manganese in our tears (tears of pain contain more than tears of distress) to the curiousness of a kiss, "The Kingdom of Infinite Space" explores the astonishing range of activities that go on inside our heads, most of which are entirely beyond our control. After escorting his readers on a fantastic voyage through every chamber of the head and brain, Raymond Tallis demonstrates that not only does consciousness not reside between our ears, but that our heads are infinitely cleverer than we are.

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The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head + In Defence of Wonder and Other Philosophical Reflections + Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843546701
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843546702
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 288,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'The Kingdom of Infinite Space gets the reader to think afresh about everyday experiences such as staring in the mirror, vision, breathing, speaking, hearing, face recognition, laughter, tickling, yawning, sweating, eating, spitting, smoking, vomiting, ageing, sex and death. The pages burst with an entertaining mixture of intriguing facts and thought-provoking observations.' New Scientist * 'An amazing book about the human head, and since its chief stated purpose is to amaze, there can be no higher compliment... I've never seen anything like it... A very heady, heady experience... Thrilling.' Lynne Truss, Sunday Times * 'Fascinating... A wonderful treasury of stupefying facts, a sort of Ripley's Believe It Or Not compendium of the extra-ordinary processes that go on inside our fragile skulls... This is a wonderful book, full of passages to make the reader stop and stare, if only in the mirror.' - Michael Simkins, Mail on Sunday * 'A sparkling tour of our senses and the way in which we are embodied... [It] makes the world seem a more interesting place and life that much more important.' - Nicholas Fearn, Independent"

About the Author

Raymond Tallis was Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester until 2006. A poet, novelist and philosopher, he was listed by the Independent in 2007 as one of fifty 'Brains of Britain', and in 2005 Prospect magazine named him as one of Britain's leading Public Intellectuals. The Raymond Tallis Reader was published in 2000 by Palgrave Macmillan, and his most recent book, Hippocratic Oaths, was published in 2004 by Atlantic Books.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A focus on our heads, and not our brains 21 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback
Raymond Tallis knows a lot about the brain and more generally our heads, since he was until recently Professor of Genetic Medicine and remains still today a poet and respected philosopher.
With this book he intended to take us on a trip around our own heads. Not the brain, but the head and it ability to blush, kiss, cry and giggle. The head that also produces tears, ear wax and sounds.
Chapters range from the role of air in breathing and talking, and then on to eating, kissing, and occasionally thinking. So the author has taken on quite a task, but does he succeed?
Firstly, the style of writing is quite informal and non-technical. The book is easy to read and the contents interesting and well discussed. Secondly, we learn lots of interesting details about our own heads. For example we need air to speak, but we are also able to communicate mood, attitude, warning and greeting through our expressions. The author quotes the German philosopher Lichtenberg as saying that the face is the most interesting surface on earth! Just think about the expressiveness of a simple wink. We also learn that our saliva is chemically different depending on its origin - perhaps because of fear or simply hunger. And we are told about the total strangeness and absurdity of smoking.
Thirdly, the author quite rightly underlines how we are identified by our heads, yet it has little to do with our sense of identity. But at times I was left with the feeling that the author felt that the brain was so complex as not to be understandable by science, e.g. "the head is the subject of a near-infinity of facts - more facts that the head could contain".
So this book is not about neuro-philosophy or neuro-biology (or any other neuro-thing) and the brain is not the star of this book.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Capital! 8 Jan 2010
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A wonder-full book by this flamboyant doctor, psychologist, philosopher, wordsmith and pyrotechnical polymath about the processes going in your head, where four of our five sense are exclusively located.

He tells us that he will say very little about the brain; and what he does say is to belittle the claims of what he calls `neuromythology'. This self-denying ordinance seems to me at its most awkward during a long passage from pp.265 to 268, where he lists a range of things which are stored up in "the head", but then sets up the Aunt Sally to say that "I, or my head, or my brain" are not like a computer. Some people - even some philosophers - may think that the brain is like a computer; but I guess that most people are aware of the difference.

With often sparkling wit (and occasionally with baroque convolutions of expression) he describes and meditates on everything from the taking in of breath to the discharging of saliva, mucus, sweat and tears. Of many of these processes we are scarcely, if at all, conscious; many of them involve very complicated mechanisms and a cocktail of ingredients; few of them can we control; and some of them run definitely counter to our wishes and interests. Here is a passage that gives you a flavour of Tallis' writing:

"The particular cruelty of acne vulgaris is that it breaks out in adolescence, when one feels most defined by one's physical appearance. This is compounded by one of the body's nastier little ironies: the hormone testosterone that makes boys achingly attracted to spotless beauties is also the most important driver to the overproduction of sebum that makes them spottily unattractive.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heady Philosophical Meanderings 23 Aug 2008
By Mr. RB FORTUNE-WOOD VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Raymond Tallis' The Kingdom of Infinite Space uses an exploration of the head (importantly excluding the brain) to spark philosophical digressions on numerous topics. These are wide ranging, encompassing identity, ego, self, embodiment, knowledge, existentialism, phenomenology, sexuality and psychology. He often retraces areas he's visited in earlier books, but this is made up for by the originality of the positions he is taking.

Tallis' continues his critique of the brain-mind identity theory, of a reductionist evolutionary biology and of a misanthropic, animalistic view of humanity. In there stead he offers a complex, incomplete, view of consciousness connected and disconnected from the body; borrows from Sartre, Nietzsche and Heidegger to provide a nuanced and humble account of the self; explores the incredible capabilities of the flesh that surrounds us and offers up an optimistic appraisal of the knowing animal.

The style, as always with Tallis, is chatty, witty, informative and clever. He draws on other philosophers and great literature to provide an excellent set of quotes that add depth to the book and everything is interlaced with amusing and interesting facts. The pessimistic anti-philosopher Emil Cioran used to berate philosophers for being anaemic, in many cases this is a fair evaluation, but I couldn't imagine something being less anaemic than The Kingdom of Infinite Space or the polymath philosopher who wrote it.

In the preface Tallis' says that he will be content if, at the end of this book, his readers are, `astounded tourists of the bit of the world that is closest to being what they themselves are[...]' Speaking as one reader, Tallis should be more than content.
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