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The Emerging Mind: The BBC Reith Lectures 2003 Paperback – 4 Dec 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (4 Dec. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861973039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861973030
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 400,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran is Director of the Centre for the Brain at the University of California, San Diego. He has a PhD from Cambridge and many honours and awards including a fellowship from All Souls College, Oxford and a Gold medal from the Australian National University. Dr Ramachandran lectures widely on art, visual perception and the brain. He has published over 120 papers in scientific journals, is Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia of Human Behaviour, the Encyclopaedia of the Human Brain and author of the critically acclaimed Phantoms in the Brain, which was the basis for a two part series on Channel Four TV. Newsweek recently named him a member of 'the century club' one of the 'hundred most prominent people to watch in the next century.'


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The two main themes in this short but important book are that
1. by studying neurological syndromes, we acquire novel insights into the functions of the normal brain;
2. the functions of the brain are best understood from an evolutionary vantage point.
V. Ramachandran's examples illustrate profusely that there is no separate 'mind stuff' and 'physical stuff' in the universe. The two are one and the same. Mind is a matter of matter.
There is also an indisputable link between neurology and psychology: psychic illnesses have organic causes.
The author sees the brain as a model-making machine: virtual reality simulations, models of other people's mind.
The Darwinian aspect is always present. As T. Dobzhansky said (quoted in this book): 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'
Natural selection has ensured that the subjective sensation of willing is delayed deliberately to coincide not with the onset of the brain command, but with the actual execution of the command.
The hierarchical 'tree' structure of syntax in language may be evolved from tool use. Language itself is not a specific adaptation which evolved for the sole purpose of communication.
The 'booba/kiki' effect shows that there is a pre-existing non-arbitrary translation between the visual appearance of an object and the auditory representation. Lips are physically mimicking the visual appearance of what one is saying and together with tongue movements produce 'proto-words'.
This short book with an excellent glossary is very rich.
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I bought this book out of a thirst to read more of the stimulating ideas of Dr. Ramachandran, but was quite disappointed to find that the book was really a summary of the ideas presented in other books without as much depth as can be found elsewhere.
It is an excellent book with fascinating ideas which I would highly recommend for anyone who has never read Ramachandran before, but if you have read him before this book will offer very, very, very, very, very little that is new.
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In keeping with a dishonest publishing tradition that didn't exist in the 'good old days', the US title for this book is "A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness", so don't be duped into buying the same product twice.

The contents are OK; I have given it only three stars because it is in part a repetition of R's "Phantoms in the Brain", although appreciably shorter and without the novelty value of the latter. But the book is by no means bad: if it were R's first book, I'd give it four stars.
Keep in mind though that this is a popular presentation.
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I first heard of VS Ramachandran when quite by accident I tuned into his giving the 2003 Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4. He has a very pleasing voice, and his entertaining & instructive style prompted me to tune in a few nights later for the next instalment, and then to go and seek out his published work.
I read his other works whilst I waited impatiently for this publication of the transcripts of those BBC Lectures, so that I could re-read and better digest at my own pace his interesting research on phantom limbs etc. I was not disappointed.
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I was familiar with Ramachandran's work before I read this book, having heard his Reith Lectures and read 'Phantoms in the Brain'. Of particular interest were his insights into metaphor and synesthesia. Having read Lakoff and Johnson's 'Philosophy in the Flesh', I wondered how we link concepts 'in the brain' to bodies living in space. My first port of call was Edward S. Casey and Yi-Fu Tuan who have both written excellent books on the subject of space/place and spatial awareness. It was interesting to see Ramachandran link spatial awareness to the parietal lobes and I wonder if consciousness is not a synesthesia of our senses (including a spatial sense), or of co-ordinated bodily functions, which might give rise to metaphor. Ramachandran suggests the 'cross-wiring' occurs at the TPO junction but, of course, this means it is a cross-wiring of bodily actions in space which are reflected in the organisation of the brain.
The notion that metaphor evolved along with the body and the brain in relation to changing environments over thousands of years raises some wonderful questions about the nature of the self and of mind. I recommend any of Ramachandran's books but I think I'd like to see more on metaphor and spatial awareness as these are important to how we construct our reality in language.
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A great read, very quick, spoken word type of writing. It has the same style as PHANTOMS and goes into more obscure neurological disorders.
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