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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Boggling
The writer is on the frontier of new research and ideas in neuroscience. A really thought provoking read, written in down to earth laguage. Highly recommended.
Published 17 months ago by P. B. Godfrey

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory on Free Will
Admittedly I bought this book mostly to read its take on Free Will, a question I've been recently exercised about, and found it disappointing. The author starts from a common sense statement of the "obvious": "I am not a puppet; I could have done otherwise". One is reminded of pre-Copernican thinkers' "evidence" that when you sit on the ground you...
Published 17 months ago by MR A DIGON


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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory on Free Will, 31 Jan. 2014
Admittedly I bought this book mostly to read its take on Free Will, a question I've been recently exercised about, and found it disappointing. The author starts from a common sense statement of the "obvious": "I am not a puppet; I could have done otherwise". One is reminded of pre-Copernican thinkers' "evidence" that when you sit on the ground you verify that the Earth doesn't move. It is Churchland herself that tells philosophers they mustn't cling to their traditional certainties ignoring brain science but the concept of free will seems to escape this advice.

She wonders what saying that free will is illusory might mean: "What if it means, for example, that because there is a neural substrate for our deliberations and choices, we cannot have free will? Now I am totally at a loss. Why would anyone say such a thing? So what do they think is required to make genuine choices? A nonphysical soul? Says who?". Says Descartes! He thought that the brain, a material structure, could not be the substrate of free will and solved the dilemma resorting to the soul. Now that we have disposed of the soul, the problem of brain-based free will remains. Churchland of all people knows that individual neurones do not have a "choice" but respond to their local physico-chemical conditions, so the question of how an organ whose working units respond to fixed natural laws can have options at least deserves discussion.

To avoid philosophical misunderstandings she settles for the concept of self-control. "What is not illusory is self-control". And after the description of  the remarkably controlled hunting behaviour of a grizzly comes the astonishing statement: "If a grizzly can exercise self-control, why not you?". Just a moment! Is she saying that a grizzly has free will, that it can be held responsible for its actions and declared guilty in a court of justice? Surely not. So her very argument proves that self-control, a property of the mammalian brain, does not imply free will. Humans and grizzlies share self-control but not free will, so where would ours come from? Maybe the author would suggest that when self-control reaches a certain level of sophistication freedom of choice appears, but we are left in the dark. Moreover, she omits any mention of neuroscience experiments that reveal the unconscious buildup of decisions which we experience as conscious (or probably have learnt from our culture to interpret them as such) and dismisses differing opinions as "often made in haste, in ignorance, and with an eye for the headline".

The book may have other gems but the ones I was looking for are sorely missing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Boggling, 13 Jan. 2014
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P. B. Godfrey - See all my reviews
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The writer is on the frontier of new research and ideas in neuroscience. A really thought provoking read, written in down to earth laguage. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 13 Dec. 2014
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Very readable book on relation between brain mind and self.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as intimidating as people first believe, 10 Mar. 2014
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I would recommend this book to anyone who had an interest in science or philosophy.. The book provides an insight into what it is like to be a scientist in the present day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Jan. 2015
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Loved it!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars old news and preaching to the converted, totally disappointed, 14 April 2014
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I was expecting cutting edge neuroscience, but it dragged on with the personal rants about how science is great and thinking a "soul" exists is stupid,

"I am more grateful to George Washington then i am to monks who spend their time praying for their own souls in hopes of going to heaven"
REALLY ? !

This is the same sort of unproductive garbage that you constantly hear from the likes of Richard Dawkins. They preach about science as if it were a religion, they aren't writing books to be read by Scientists, they are writing books to have a rant at religious people.

It skimmed through the serious stuff of how the brain actually gives rise to the "self".
Too basic for anyone with past knowledge, too complex for the average reader, and hell bent on trying to prove "science" is great.

If I didn't think science was good I wouldn't have become a scientist reading about neuroscience ! Reading books from Ernest Beckert, Irvin Yalom is a much better way in finding out why we are the way we are, than hearing childhood stories of farm life from Ms. Churchland.
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7 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More brain anatomy book and everything about brain except philosophy or self, 12 Sept. 2013
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I was very enthusiastic about the book when I ordered it. The author felt important to hammer the point that there is no "soul" concept. So she does hammer the message on almost every page. Felt bit childish approach.

When I started reading the book it was like reading a neurology disorder book. Then brain anatomy book. Then a book on dreams etc.

The books does try to touch many times on how the thinking process works, but does not really get to the core of it.

I would rate it a very ordinary book at least in terms of the topic that has been chosen.
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