How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014
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‘A clever, subtle, enjoyable book — and a deeply English one, full of idiosyncrasy and resistance to easy answers’ Sunday Times
‘Sparky and fun… Auperb. Potter investigates what it is to be human, and his method is to investigate the history of human thought’ Evening Standard
‘Beautiful and profound … Not only unlike any work of literature I’ve read, it comes closer than any new work I’ve read to doing full justice to the impossible complexity of living a life … It concerns matters of mortality, and of grocery shopping. It is – I’ll just say it – a significant book’ Michael Cunningham, author of ‘The Hours’
‘A sort of commonplace book full of paradox and conflicting ideas, shocking facts and redemptive anecdotes, turbulent with two or three millennia of human thought … The source material is wonderfully diverse … Very enjoyable’ Guardian
‘Well-travelled imaginations will enjoy a jaunt with fiery polymath Christopher Potter; “How to Make a Human Being” is a quirky investigation into our deepest nature’ Hilary Mantel, Guardian
‘Rich and wonderful … A clever, subtle, enjoyable book. If we are a parliament of selves, this book is a parliament of explanations’ Sunday Times
‘Potter illuminates the human in all its manifestations from single cell to creator of culture … The scattershot narrative somehow coalesces into a brilliant whole and compelling case for anti-reductionism’ Nature Magazine
‘Potter always has something interesting to say, even if you disagree … this is a wonderful and unique book.’ Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics at Harvard University
About the Author
Christopher Potter spent almost a quarter of a century in publishing, over 17 of those years at the independent publishing house Fourth Estate, where he became publisher and managing director. His first book was the much-praised ‘You Are Here, A Portable History of the Universe’. ‘How To Make a Human Being’ is his second.
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Top Customer Reviews
Christopher Potter’s deep and wide-ranging empathy for all these perspectives ensures that the experience of reading it is constantly to be surprised, moved, or delighted into new perceptions, and no side is stereotyped or reduced. While describing with wonder the recent astonishing progress in physics, biochemistry and neuroscience, he deploys the voices of eminent scientists to reveal how well they understand the limitations of their field of enquiry (things measurable “by a clock and a ruler”). New scientific advances can typically flow not from dry observation but acts of imagination as inspired as art. Like great artists, they destroy or constrict what were previously certainties. What our universe is, and what it means to be human, are always unravelling. We are an unstable field, and in this a microcosm of our cosmic surroundings, but one capable, at our best, of astonishing and unmeasurable perception, each holding, as Potter reveals, in a human brain, the most complex thing so far discovered in creation.
Meaning may belong more in metaphor, where poets and religious thinkers have often dwelt, questioning those who, from any side of the argument, have propounded narrow certainties.Read more ›
If less is more, is nothing too much?
Human beings like to make things, but when the universe makes things, what are they? Being in the universe calls the thingness of things into doubt.
And so forth. Some but not most of the quotes or the author's aperçus are too long to fit in a fortune cookie.
Nearly all the great pretentious dead people appear: the Dalai Lama (well, OK he's not dead but not likely to sue for copyright infringement) Virginia Woolf, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Freud, Jacques Derrida, Victor Hugo, D H Lawrence, J P Sartre... add a couple more and a few Guardian or NYRoB columnists and you'd have a few sets for happy families.
Of course scientists say stupid things from time to time. We all do, shame on us. It seems to be a bit harsh to quote them out of context, but in context of this tripe.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Intriguing book. I read the e-book first and then bought a hard copy for my daughter who is studying psychology and neuroscience.Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is an intriguing, exciting and challenging book that circles around Q's of negative capability in the face of the inevitable existential uncertainty of being human. Read morePublished on 10 May 2014 by GRANE
Simply, science is what we know (and how we came to know it); the rest is chanting in the dark. Potter likes to blur the line. Read morePublished on 29 April 2014 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
A delightful and engaging book. I find it less eccentric than wry, which, to me at least, seems a welcome sign of respect for the intelligence of the reader. Read morePublished on 15 April 2014 by The Sethmas of Pybama
I think this is a wonderful book. It really does go into all those questions about life and existence, but in a way that so unernest, and draws on the wisdom of so many people,... Read morePublished on 1 April 2014 by Carrington