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Simon Laub (Aarhus, Denmark, Europe)
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The Ego Trick
The Ego Trick
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Selves and other mind constructions., 9 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Ego Trick (Paperback)
A wonderful book. Profound and yet a relatively easy read.

His question: "What are we and on what does our continued existence over
time depend?" is obviously a rather broad question.

But through the book he manage to get some good points across, as well as
answering the question. At least, to some extent.

He starts out by describing that in the brain - the self is "No central
system, but different brain systems working together - with no central,
top-down control".
Then we get some very memorable examples on how the self can fall apart. How
memories are just one component in what makes a self. A section about mind and body, goes into Descartes "cogito ergo sum" argument. And how Antonio Damasio have picked that apart by showing that our bodies are actually quite important in thinking also. Just as emotions are necessary ingredients in rational thought.

Baggini concludes that our "selves" change over time, rather than stay the time. It follows rather neatly from his argumentation that a self is not "one thing", but rather a bundle of things. That selves changes over time obviously have some rather dramatic consequences for our thinking about our future. All of which is nicely explored in the book.

Finally, Baggini lets Susan Greenfield tell us a little about what selves will be like in the future. She sketches three scenarios - someones, anyones and no-ones. Rather unnerving she thinks that we will all be noones in the future.

Great book. Important stuff.

-Simon


The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
by Thomas Metzinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.79

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Being a virtual self inside a virtual reality, 13 Mar 2011
According to Thomas Metzinger, we live in a sort of virtual reality. Everything that we experience is ''a virtual self in a virtual reality''......
Our brains are effectively onboard computers creating a ''transparent'' real time virtual reality of it's environment... In Metzingers words: ''Our brains create a world simulation, so perfect that we do not recognize it as an image in our minds.''

The colors of the setting sun is not a property of the evening sky. It is a property of the internal model for the evening sky, a model created by the brain.
And it gets worse:
We are not even in direct contact with our own bodies...What we feel is an illusion....not reality, but virtual reality. Strictly speaking, and on the level of conscious experience alone, you live live in a virtual body and not in a real one...

And certainly, in the future, understanding our minds in this light might lead to whole new experiences:
Metzingers envisions a future where people goes a little further with technology that just playing video games and experiment with virtual reality for fun.
Indeed, some might use new technology to explore the universe of altered states of consciousness in a quest for meaning. E.g. Have their temporal lobes ticled by
advanced technology, leadning to all sorts of new experiences.

Exciting times ahead !

-Simon


Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
by Robin Dunbar
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A persuasive book -and certainly an interesting read, 27 Feb 2011
According to Evolutionary psychology the human brain is the product of evolution and natural selection.

Indeed, according to evolutionary psychology - Evolution shapes everything: Hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, immune systems etc. and even cognition.
Sure, evolution might seem very impersonal and materialistic. Still, according to evolutionary psycholoy, it was evolution that ended up giving us all of our human feelings and thoughts. Evolution might be the story of the selfish gene, but evolution might also tell us something about how we learned to work together. Even altruism can be explained with the help of evolutionary ideas (i.e. kin selection and reciprocity might help us to understand how nonselfish social traits, such as altruism, could arise).

Some critics argue that evolutionary psychology hypotheses are difficult or impossible to test. Still, all in all I find the book persuasive - and certainly an interesting read.

-Simon


The Invisible Gorilla
The Invisible Gorilla
by Christopher Chabris
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely deceptions, 20 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Invisible Gorilla (Hardcover)
Christoper Chabris and Daniel Simons wonderful book ''The invisible Gorilla'' is all about how our intuition deceives us. The book has its name from the authors ''basketball experiment'', where people fail to recognize a Gorilla in their midst.
Indeed, our brains routinely plays tricks on us! Sure, we may think we experience and understand the world around us. But actually, often, we can miss the gorilla standing right in front of us! When we assume there should be no gorilla in front of us, we tend not to see any gorillas, even if they are there...
The authors gorilla experiment is a brilliant illustration that looking is not necessarily seeing. But there are a myriad of other illusions out there. The ''gorillas'' are lurking everywhere.

We are hardwired to edit our perceptions and memories, to misinterpret evidence and jump to conclusions. And as information are hurled at us from all sides in todays world, the book's key message is that we think our mental abilities and capacities are greater than they really are. Important stuff. And brilliantly presented in this book.

-Simon


Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines
Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.16

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Our intellectual needs .., 4 Feb 2011
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow there is hierarchy of human needs. At the bottom we find material and physical needs for our basic existence. In the middle come needs for relationships, personal and social. At the top comes needs for personal growth etc.
Indeed, according to Baggini, ''it is not only intellectuals who have intellectual needs. All have. The reason you might be reading this book is because you have some kind of need for intellectual stimulation.''
And sure, Baggini does a good job in applying philosophy to news-stories from the recent past. But something is missing: The intellectual ''kick'', which might have made you look at these news-stories in a completely new way. But, instead of exciting revelations to meet your ''Maslowian needs'' you get run-of-the-mill philosophy that you can hardly disagree with.
Could be worse, but it could also have been better.

-Simon


What's it All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
What's it All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and thought provoking philosophy, 23 Jan 2011
According to Jean-Paul Sartre: ''Purpose and meaning are not built in to human life, we ourselves are responsible for fashioning our own purposes. It is not that life has no meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning.''

Which to many might ring a bit hollow: ''Ok, we can't see any meaning out there, so we are just going to make one up for ourselves....'' Really, is a made-up meaning a real meaning at all?

Yes, according to Baggini, assigned purposes are not inferior to predetermined purposes! He thinks that we should ''grow up'' and accept that there is not some hidden or secret purpose that we have not yet discovered.
Instead, our decision making should be based on what is out in the open for everyone to see: ''The whole problem of lifes meaning is not that we lack any particular piece of secret information ... It is rather to be solved by thinking about the issues on which the evidence remains silent....''

So what could life's purpose then be? Some might claim that life is all about having a good material standard of living or becoming successful someday in the future. Others claim that life is about helping others, serving humanity, being happy, enjoying each day or freeing the mind. According to Baggini there might be some truth in these answers - but not the whole truth.
The rest of the book (an entertaining and thought provoking journey) walks us through some of these ideas that people have (on lifes purpose). Trying not to be dogmatic, he doesn't reject anything completely, but does point out weak spots in a lot of the reasoning. In the end the reader should decide for himself, as long as he makes a ''Moral'' and ''Ethical'' choice....

In the end the reader should not think that he will really ever be any wiser. Indeed, we might end up wanting more knowledge and more input.
But Baggini doesn't think it will change much. Instead we should ''confront and accept the limits of human understanding'' - Thats the mature approach according to Baggini. And with that Baggini closes the book.

At least this reader isn't completely satisfied with this....
Well, well - maybe we don't know anything, and maybe we are really reptiles from Tau Ceti inside some virtual reality gear that makes us think that we are earthlings - Then surely the Buddhist are wise to state that reality is a fuzzy thing, and that we should keep working to improve our minds - maybe there might even be some purpose in that. And surely Baggini will agree that it will be ok for us to decide our own purpose, as long as we don't hurt anyone else in the process.

-Simon


How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks
How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks
by Professor Robin Dunbar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We are the product of our evolutionary history, 8 Jan 2011
We are the the product of our evolutionary history, according to professor (of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University) Robin Dunbar. According to Dunbar, the evidence is everywhere: From the way we socially interact (Grooming, laughter, music and language), to the way our minds are actually build and onwards to the way our minds are capable of reflecting about the world. There is an evolutionary hand in it everywhere. The book is a delightful and fascinating read, sharing insights from many fields, but always with a focus on evolutionary biology.

Sections about grooming are especially good. Indeed, grooming is not just about removing fleas. It is about intimacy, it creates a sense of wellbeing and relaxed connectedness. It has to do with endorphins. Laughter, music and language are all forms of grooming, even though they might have other purposes as well. It is all about what makes us work as individuals and as groups.

Our big brains are necessary for these more advanced forms of grooming. And the grooming makes it possible to build even bigger brains. All in just in a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms.

An exciting book about an exciting subject.

-Simon


Do They Think You're Stupid?: 100 Ways of Spotting Spin and Nonsense from the Media, Celebrities and Politicians
Do They Think You're Stupid?: 100 Ways of Spotting Spin and Nonsense from the Media, Celebrities and Politicians
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Critical thinking to combat faulty reasoning, spin and tricksy arguments, 30 Dec 2010
Faulty reasoning, spin and tricksy arguments are used around us all the time. Listing some 100 examples, Julian Bagginis book gives us some much needed tools to cut through some of the rhetorical tricks used to influence our thoughts.
And it is good to be reminded that people do try to flatter us, appeal to our sense of loyalty, use quantity over quality in arguments etc. etc. - all for the purpose of winning us over.

Still, with so much media spin and rhetorical nonsense going on, the book should have been even more razor sharp. Indeed, imagine how much society could benefit from a more qualified debate!

-Simon


Tribe : Complete BBC Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD]
Tribe : Complete BBC Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Parry
Price: 10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Tribe is great TV, 19 July 2010
I was stuck from episode 1, where Bruce Parry and Mark Anstice, set off to West Papua to the unclimbed south face of Gunang Mandala.
From walking in dense jungles to experiencing village life, Parry gives a wonderful insight to what tribal life is all about.
Including the strange initiations, like when Parry visits the
Babongo in Gabon, Africa. Here Parry takes a hallucinogenic drug substance called iboga, gathered from the root of a tree. After a lot of vomiting and being very sick, the drug apparently influences brain centers for social relationships, and Parry experiences how all of his actions have influenced other people. Afterwards the tribe declares him 'initiated''. Amazing stuff and brilliant TV.
I have certainly never seen anything like it, and will certainly recommend it. Actually, this is both entertaining and informative TV!
You couldnt wish for more !

-Simon


The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty Species of Extinct Human Ancestors
The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty Species of Extinct Human Ancestors
by G.j. Sawyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 30.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our humble origins, and the unique and treacherous evolutionary path from back then to us, 22 May 2010
A spectacular book. Stunning illustrations.
That makes you appreciate more than ever how remarkable it really is that we ended up being able to ponder our own past....

The author's stick to facts and steer away from the opinion and conjecture. It is straightforward interpretations of the fossils. And on top of that you have artists stunning illustrations of what the fossils might actually be telling us.

This book is a must for anyone interested in human ancestors. I can't recommend it enough!

-Simon


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