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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Openly biased and philosophically questionable, 4 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
While neuroscientific research provides ever more detailed pictures of the brain's physiology and its intricate and staggeringly complex processing abilities, its presumed superiority as a means for answering the philosophical questions posed by any honest enquiry into the nature of consciousness or "knowingness" - not to mention self-consciousness - seems quite grossly overestimated in this book. Writers of Blackmore's ilk (Dennett and Dawkins are well-known frequenters of the same club) rely heavily on ridiculing "naive" or "speculative" theories which have been troubling philosophy for millennia. It's as though their own misconceptions about anything metaphysical are necessarily shared by the rest of us and necessarily prove that metaphysics and religious dogma are one and the same. Well they aren't, and there are plenty of very intelligent, earnest, open-minded and dedicated seekers of truth (as opposed to fact, a discrepancy dangerously overlooked by many an otherwise diligent scientist) who are no doubt more than a little disturbed by the irresponsible and disillusioning views presented in this book. It's not pleasant to be disabused of any belief or psychological crutch, and I was astonished to read that Blackmore casually imparted the "fact" of there being no self to the volunteers in her replication of Libet's experiment, and that she seemed surprised to note their "depression" at this conclusion. Surely a psychologist would understand the implications of such an action. The reaction of another of the reviewers here is not uncommon, I suspect, and it is perhaps only those who don't understand the implications of her assertion who are immune to its effects.

Psychoanalytic literature is riddled with accounts of patients who have become so traumatised as to have completely dissociated from themselves. This can manifest in such an extreme way as to leave the sufferer permanently without any sense of there being a "self" whatsoever. It is reported as being the most undesirable state of affairs. It is, in fact, the closest (hopefully!) anyone will come to becoming the zombie so casually invoked in so many philosophical "thought experiments." Conversely, the opposite process - that of gradually revealing the repressed, hidden and reviled self - is the aim of psychoanalytic therapy, and this process (if successful - and it rarely is, thanks, no doubt, to the hopeless attitude engendered by these nihilistic physicalist theories) always involves recognising something which feels like an "authentic self." Blackmore's assumptions radically undermine the possibility of psychotherapies ever being truly effective, and I'm sure they support more superficial and cognitive based therapies. And psychoanalytic theory is the tip of a very big philosophical iceberg in relation to theories pertaining to metaphysical actuality.

But the real danger is that this book, in overreaching its premise so radically, actually contributes even further to the greatest "delusion" of all - the "fact" that metaphysics is dead. This is simply not true, and I'm genuinely disturbed at the conceit with which modern "philosophers" like Blackmore are allowed to approach their readers, especially since most of these readers are as yet unable to formulate sophisticated arguments of their own; which is why, of course, they would want to buy an unbiased, balanced, critical, scientific work written by a trustworthy expert in the field. Instead, I'm afraid readers will get a potentially lethal dose of irresponsible one-sidedness.

That, at least, is my opinion on the matter.....
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Apr 2010 10:19:29 BDT
Outstandingly lucid review. Could you recommend works about metaphysics and it's challenges today, as well as psychoanalytic literature that illustrates the points you raised up? Thank you.

Posted on 8 Jul 2010 15:11:34 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 21 Oct 2011 08:23:43 BDT]
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