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Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness Paperback – 2 Feb 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Hill & Wang; 1 edition (2 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809016486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809016488
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.7 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“Provocative and lucid . . . Certainly, many of the scientists cited by Noë would disagree with his interpretations, but that’s part of what makes this book so important: It’s an audacious retelling of the standard story, an exploration of the mind that questions some of our most cherished assumptions about what the mind is.” —Jonah Lehrer, "San Francisco Chronicle""" “Noë is an alluring writer.” —Ruth Levy Guyer, "The Washington Post" “Noë’s conversational style is gentle, attentive and easygoing. But, in true philosopher fashion, he also picks his words deliberately, as if stepping off the path of right thinking would result in some tragic plummet into the abyss of illogic.” —Gordy Slack, "Salon" “I found "Out of Our Heads" to be a refreshingly clear, well-written, and satisfyingly slim book that reveals serious limitations in the mainstream academic approach to studying the na

"Provocative and lucid . . . Certainly, many of the scientists cited by Noe would disagree with his interpretations, but that's part of what makes this book so important: It's an audacious retelling of the standard story, an exploration of the mind that questions some of our most cherished assumptions about what the mind is." --Jonah Lehrer, "San Francisco Chronicle""" "Noe is an alluring writer." --Ruth Levy Guyer, "The Washington Post" "Noe's conversational style is gentle, attentive and easygoing. But, in true philosopher fashion, he also picks his words deliberately, as if stepping off the path of right thinking would result in some tragic plummet into the abyss of illogic." --Gordy Slack, "Salon" "I found "Out of Our Heads" to be a refreshingly clear, well-written, and satisfyingly slim book that reveals serious limitations in the mainstream academic approach to studying the nature of consciousness." --Dean Radin, "Shift" "As a neurologist, confronted every day by questions of mind, self, consciousness, and their basis, I find Alva Noe's concepts--that consciousness is an organismic and not just a cerebral quality, that it is embodied in actions and not just isolated bits of brain--both astounding and convincing. "Out of Our Heads" is a book that should be read by everyone who thinks about thinking." --Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center "A provocative and insightful book that will force experts and students alike to reconsider their grasp of current orthodoxy. "Out of Our Heads" is a vivid, clear, and very knowledgeable critique of some of the main ideas in cognitive science, and those of us who disagree with some of its main conclusions have our work cut out for us." --Daniel C. Dennett, Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University "This book blows a breath of fresh air into the debates about consciousness and the brain. You are not your brain; you are your body, brain, and world dynamically intertwined. Consciousness is not a solo performance by the brain; it's a partner dance our living bodies enact in concert with the world. If you think the brain is the beginning and end of the story about consciousness, you need to get out of your head and read this book!" --Evan Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto "As colorful and hard-hitting as its title suggests, "Out of Our Heads" is an important and provocative work that challenges some of the deepest assumptions guiding the contemporary scientific study of conscious experience." --Andy Clark, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Edinburgh University "Alva Noe makes a powerful and persuasive case for the view that a several-centuries-old picture of the mind as an entity 'inside the head' has misled both lay and scientific thought about the nature of consciousness and, more broadly, the nature of the mind-world relation. Ranging over topics in philosophy, psychology, and neurology, the chapters of this book combine sophistication and availability to a general reader. His alternative to the misleading picture is nontrivial, and while his views are sure to be controversial, most of what he says is true, and all of it is original and important to think about." --Hilary Putnam, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University "Readers interested in how science can intersect with and profit from philosophy will find much food for thought in Noe's groundbreaking study." --"Publishers Weekly" "Illuminating . . . An invaluable contribution to cognitive science and the branch of self-reflective philosophy extending back to Descartes' famous maxim, 'I think, therefore I am.'" "--"Carl Hays, "Booklist"

Provocative and lucid . . . Certainly, many of the scientists cited by Noe would disagree with his interpretations, but that's part of what makes this book so important: It's an audacious retelling of the standard story, an exploration of the mind that questions some of our most cherished assumptions about what the mind is. "Jonah Lehrer, San Francisco Chronicle"

Noe is an alluring writer. "Ruth Levy Guyer, The Washington Post"

Noe's conversational style is gentle, attentive and easygoing. But, in true philosopher fashion, he also picks his words deliberately, as if stepping off the path of right thinking would result in some tragic plummet into the abyss of illogic. "Gordy Slack, Salon"

I found "Out of Our Heads" to be a refreshingly clear, well-written, and satisfyingly slim book that reveals serious limitations in the mainstream academic approach to studying the nature of consciousness. "Dean Radin, Shift"

As a neurologist, confronted every day by questions of mind, self, consciousness, and their basis, I find Alva Noe's concepts--that consciousness is an organismic and not just a cerebral quality, that it is embodied in actions and not just isolated bits of brain--both astounding and convincing. "Out of Our Heads" is a book that should be read by everyone who thinks about thinking. "Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center"

A provocative and insightful book that will force experts and students alike to reconsider their grasp of current orthodoxy. "Out of Our Heads" is a vivid, clear, and very knowledgeable critique of some of the main ideas in cognitive science, and those of us who disagree with some of its main conclusions have our work cut out for us. "Daniel C. Dennett, Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University"

This book blows a breath of fresh air into the debates about consciousness and the brain. You are not your brain; you are your body, brain, and world dynamically intertwined. Consciousness is not a solo performance by the brain; it's a partner dance our living bodies enact in concert with the world. If you think the brain is the beginning and end of the story about consciousness, you need to get out of your head and read this book! "Evan Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto"

As colorful and hard-hitting as its title suggests, "Out of Our Heads" is an important and provocative work that challenges some of the deepest assumptions guiding the contemporary scientific study of conscious experience. "Andy Clark, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Edinburgh University"

Alva Noe makes a powerful and persuasive case for the view that a several-centuries-old picture of the mind as an entity inside the head' has misled both lay and scientific thought about the nature of consciousness and, more broadly, the nature of the mind-world relation. Ranging over topics in philosophy, psychology, and neurology, the chapters of this book combine sophistication and availability to a general reader. His alternative to the misleading picture is nontrivial, and while his views are sure to be controversial, most of what he says is true, and all of it is original and important to think about. "Hilary Putnam, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University"

Readers interested in how science can intersect with and profit from philosophy will find much food for thought in Noe's groundbreaking study. "Publishers Weekly"

Illuminating . . . An invaluable contribution to cognitive science and the branch of self-reflective philosophy extending back to Descartes' famous maxim, I think, therefore I am.' "Carl Hays, Booklist""

About the Author

Alva Noe is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Science. His previous book, "Action in Perception," was published in 2004."


Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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Alva Noe is a good philosopher, and the argument he presents in this book is worth taking seriously. As a philosopher too (who should disclose that he has traded words and shared parties with Alva), I'm not convinced entirely by his case, but I find the general drift quite persuasive. Essentially, the prevailing orthodoxy that minds are implemented by brains is conceptually lazy and possibly only half the truth, but we have our work cut out trying to go beyond it. Noe has made a brave start. Naturally, there's still an awful lot of mileage in the mind-brain orthodoxy, and much of the hard science in the area would be incomprehensible without it, in some form, but minds extend beyond brains and are sustained in being by more than brains. As an intuition pump here, imagine that minds are like money. Dollar bills and so on implement money, but money is a lot more, even if you exclude collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps and so on as beyond the pale. Minds are part of a huge public institution by which we build our organized and collective appreciation of nature and our place in it. Noe sees something like this (my gloss on the view is of course my own to live down) and gives the view a hearty helping hand. My reservation (hence four stars) is over the rather folksy rhetoric that decorates the book. This creditably personal style makes the hard core argument easier and smoother reading, and many will welcome it for that reason, but for me as a logical purist is was rather ad hominem. Anyway, that said, read this book in conjunction with Andy Clark's Supersizing the Mind. The basic message is the same. This is a message whose time is coming, I think. And Noe has done a great job in putting it out there for all interested readers to enjoy.
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This is a wonderful little book. Noë has deliberately avoided 'the jargon and insider-speak, the styles of language and argumentation that already presuppose that one is a member of the cognitive science club' and he has been brilliantly successful in doing so. Having read this book, I was able to go on and read Evan Thompson's much more difficult and comprehensive 'Mind and Life'. Coming back to Noë again, I could see how much he'd synthesised in his easily accessible prose. It's a good compare and contrast too with Andy Clark's 'Supersizing the Mind'. Although apparently a very similar thesis, Clark retains the traditional view of understanding mind in terms of cognitive brain function; he doesn't 'get' the fundamental point that this treats human beings as cognitive devices rather than creatures at home in an environment they 'enact' through their engagement with it. Noë 's thinking is grounded in phenomenology - Merleau-Ponty in particular - and for readers like me who've heard of this kind of philosophy but don't know much about it, it makes a superb introduction. It is much more than a book about neuroscience or even the philosophy of consciousness. It is also a very HUMAN book that as he says tries to show 'that science and humanist styles of thinking must engage with each other'. So it includes telling and touching examples about his immigrant father's loss of his 'life-world' and the man on the train who couldn't understand his 6 year old son's question about the man's dog. Noë practises what he preaches - what reviewer Andrew Ross saw as `ad hominem' folksy rhetoric' appealed to me as a kind of passionate conviction that is too often edited out of the literature of philosophy and science
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Like a good Buddhist challenging ego-centric Westerners to point to where their interior, individuated selves might be, Alva Noe challenges the neuroscientific orthodoxy which tries to nail consciouness to the brain. After all, has anybody ever been found to be in their head? Has any post-mortem revealed an interior self or homunculus? No, most of our lives is out of our heads. Our consciousness is in the world and moves around and has its effects out there, not in here. Being's being in the head is an experientially based presumption of scientists who don't realize how thorough-going their own intellectualism is - and go on to obliviously found whole scientific descriptions on this unexamined starting point; their personal experience of interiority. This book begins deconstructing those unfounded and philosophically [even scientifically] errant presuppositions.

Drawing existentially on Maurice Merleau-Ponty and theoretically on contemporary work in the field of situated cognition [which he here makes popular and accessible], Alva Noe begins to establish a legitimately sustained place for consciouness in the processes of the world. Why should I claim information is being processed in my head [where no one has ever actually located information, in spite of trying] when I have a pen and notepad in my hand, on which I am working out an equation? Look, the writing miraculously appears, the very substrate of my thought - there, in the world! Why locate that information processing where it has never been found as such; doing so is a cartesian prejudice. Why say my neurons are the substrate of my memory when I, equally, have images on my laptop? We are outside our heads, or at least contiguous with a world in which divisions of interior and exterior can only ever be relative.
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