1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2012
This is a very enjoyable book. Perhaps it's because I share the same bad sense of humour as Corballis, but I found it a witty book, as well as an informative one.
The specific theory here is that recursion is the cognitive mechanism behind much of our higher mental faculties, including mental time travel, theory of mind, and, of course, language. I can see how a comprehensive theory of recursion in human thought could potentially account for language acquisition, but following the evidence is evidently the crucial thing. Corballis presents his evidence very well (and, as I mentioned, in quite a dry, witty way), and his argument is easy to follow, from the idea of recursion itself to the development of the capacity for recursive thought in hominins.
This is a book for a popular audience. It contains excellent notes and a great bibliography, and I'd recommend that anyone in the cognitive or social sciences pick it up and give it a read, as well as interested non-academics. The drawback of writing a popular account is that the little details of the theory aren't presented (naturally), and this, for me, detracts a tiny bit from it. The subtitle claims that recursive thought is at the root of human sociality and civilisation, and I believe that this is true. But Corballis doesn't present a way of uniting theory of mind and recursion to, say, government, state societies, and literacy, meaning that the book presents the germ of an argument rather than a full exposition. That's fine - I actually bought the book so as to be able to work on problems of that sort with a better understanding of the broader canvas of recursion. So it still suited my purposes perfectly well.
I'd still recommend it to anyone and everyone with an interest in how humans think, and I'd certainly put it on an academic reading list.
There is another slight drawback, though. Some parts a tiny bit muddled - muddled through editing. The notes for chapter two are off by one, so that note 8 is labelled with a 7 in the text, and so on throughout the chapter. Other errors of that kind, while not exactly common, can be found. One error that probably is the author's fault is the location of the bones of Homo floresiensis, which were found on the island of Flores in Indonesia, not the island of Flora, as the notes have it. It just needed another revision before printing, I think. It's still an incredibly readable and interesting book with a great theory to present, and the fun Corballis clearly had in writing it shines through. A revised second edition could easily become a popular cognitive classic.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2011
Although I wasn't convinced by the specific theory that he is proposing, this is a very well written book which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject of "Consciousness".
It provides a good overview of the various competing schools of thought, in a style which is easily accessible to the interested layman without being "dumbed-down" in any way.