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on 27 January 2016
Fantastic
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on 29 August 2011
The substance of this book falls into two parts, an attempt to explain how consciousness arises, and an attempt to understand the functions of consciousness, working from the basis that evolution must have selected for it.

The larger part of the book is spent discussing the functions of consciousness. The main suggestion is that it conveys a pleasure in living that incentives us towards survival. Arguably the most interesting moments in this book are examples of what look like pleasure in life in non-human animals.

There's something to be said for the pleasure in living idea. It might have benefited from being connected to evidence for emotional evaluation of perceptions and their part in subsequent behaviour. This would allow the idea to be extended to give subjective experience a more general adaptiveness.

The explnanation of how consciousness arises rests on feedback loops. These are abundant in the brain, and according to this theory, lead on to dynamic activity in the form of the kind of attractor basins found in chaos theory. Humphrey is not the first to suggest there might be chaos aspects to neural processing, with small differences in initial conditions leading to big differences and also repetitive patterns (attractor basins) in the eventual outcome. As such this does not seem out of tune with either the 'run away' or the repeating aspects of some cognitive and emotional processing.

However, what is difficult to see is how this gives rise to consciousness. Chaos theory originally became established through observation of weather systems, and was then extended to other complex systems such as turbulence in water. But none of these systems is suggested to be conscious, and it is not clear why a chaotic system in biological matter should be different.
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on 11 February 2011
I was incredibly disappointed by this book, reading it after seeing the reviews.
It contains vast amounts of waffle and hand wavy stuff and nothing of substance about how I'm aware.

I was strongly reminded of Gillian McKeith's pronouncements on food science.
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on 1 January 2013
The author seems to overlook the extended self that is family and its role in everlasting albeit diluted personal presence with each successive generation. His omission leads him to weak conclusions concerning internal motivators for belief systems postulating the existence of an eternal soul. This undermines the initially revealing but badly presented concepts he sets out in the earlier chapters
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on 28 February 2013
Maybe I am not intellectual enough but the first few chapters were like wading though treacle and utterly boring.
I like to read a variety of books, not stick to the same genres but I had to give up with this which is unusual.
Dry as dust is probably a better title!
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